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My Religion - 
What I Believe 


Lev Tolstoy 



My Religion - What I Believe by Lev Tolstoy 
Introduction 

I am fifty-five years old and, with the exception of the fourteen or fifteen 
years of my childhood, I have been until recently a "Nihilist" in the proper 
signification of that term, i.e. I have not been a Socialist or Revolutionist, but 
a Nihilist in the sense of being completely without faith. 

Five years ago I began to believe in the teaching of Christ, and in 
consequence a great change has been wrought in me. I now no longer care 
for the things that I had prized, and I have begun to desire that which I had 
formerly been indifferent to. The causes which seemed worthy of respect to 
me before, now appeared unworthy, and what seemed bad before 
appeared to be good now. Like a man who, going out on business, on his 
way suddenly becomes convinced of the futility of that business and turns 
back; and all that stood to the right now stands to the left, and all that was 
to the left is now to the right; his wish to be as far from home as possible is 
changed to the desire of being as near home as possible - so, I may say, the 
whole aim and purpose of my life has been changed; my desires are no more 
what they have been. For me, good and evil have changed places. This 
experience came through my apprehending the teaching of Christ in an 
altogether different way compared to how I understood it earlier. 

It is not my intention to interpret the teaching of Christ, but simply to relate 
how I came to understand the simplest, clearest, intelligible, the most 
undoubtful, and addressing all people meaning in the teaching; and how 
that, which I had grasped, gave a new direction to all my thoughts, and 
provided me with peacefulness and happiness. 

I have no wish to interpret the teaching of Christ, but I should like to prevent 
others from interpreting it wrongly. Christian churches generally 
acknowledge that all men, however they may differ from each other in 
knowledge or mental capacity, are equal before God; and that the truth 
revealed to man is accessible to all. Christ Flimself has told us that the Father 
has hidden some things 'from the wise and prudent, and revealed them to 
the unaware.' 

All men cannot be initiated into the mysteries of dogmatic, homiletic, and 


patristic theologies, and so on, but everybody can understand what Christ 
taught to all millions of simple and ignorant men. This is what Christ told all 
these simple people, who didn't have an opportunity to get explanations of 
his teaching from Paul, Clement, Zlatoust and others; his meaning was 
incomprehensible to me, too, but I understand it now, and that's what I 
want to explain to all people. 

The thief on the cross believed in Christ and was saved. Would it have 
harmed anybody if the thief had not died on the cross, but had come down 
to tell us how he believed in Christ? 

Like the thief on the cross, I, too, believed in the teaching of Christ, and 
found my salvation in it. This is not a far-fetched comparison; it is the closest 
description of the condition of anguish and despair I was once in at the 
thought of life and of death, and it also indicates the peace and happiness 
that now fill my soul. 

Like the thief, I knew that my life was full of wickedness; I saw that the 
greater part of those around me were morally no better than I was. Like the 
thief, too, I knew that I was unhappy, and that I suffered; and that all around 
me were unhappy and suffering likewise, and I saw no way out of this state 
of misery but through death. 

Like the thief, I was nailed, as it were by some invisible power, to this life of 
suffering and evil; and the same dreadful darkness of death that awaited the 
thief, after his useless suffering and enduring of the evils of life, awaited me. 

In all this I was like the thief, but there was this difference between us: he 
was dying, and I still lived. The thief could believe that his salvation would be 
realized beyond the grave, but I could not; because, putting aside the life 
beyond the grave, I had yet to live on earth. I did not, however, understand 
life. It seemed awful to me until I heard the words of Christ and understood 
them; and then life and death no longer seemed to be evils; instead of 
despair I felt the joy of possessing a life that death has no power to destroy. 

Can it harm anyone if I relate how it was that this change was effected in 
me? 



Chapter 1 

I have explained the reason why I had not properly understood the teaching 
of Christ in my two works, A Criticism on Dogmatic Theology and A New 
Translation and Comparison of the Four Gospels, with a commentary. In 
these works I examine all that conceals the truth from the eyes of men, and 
also retranslate and compare the four gospels verse by verse. 

I have been engaged for some six years upon this work. Every year, every 
month, I find new clarifications and confirmations of the main thought, and I 
correct the defects that creep in through haste or impulse. My life will 
perhaps end before the work is complete, but I am sure that it is a much 
needed work, and therefore I shall do what I can while my life lasts. 

This is my outward work on the theology of the gospel. But the inner 
working of my soul, which I wish to speak of here, was not the result of a 
methodical investigation of doctrinal theology, or of the actual texts of the 
gospel; it was a sudden removal of all that hid the true meaning of the 
Christian teaching - a momentary flash of light, which made everything clear 
to me. It was something like that which might happen to a man who, after 
vainly attempting, by a false plan, to build up a statue out of a confused 
heap of small pieces of marble, suddenly guesses at the figure they are 
intended to form by the shape of the largest piece; and then, on beginning 
to set up the statue, finds his guess confirmed by the harmonious joining in 
of the various pieces. 

I wish to tell in this work how I found the key to the teaching of Christ, by 
the help of which the truth was disclosed to me so clearly and convincingly. 

Here is how I made the discovery. Almost from the first years of my 
childhood, when I began to read the gospel for myself, the teaching that 
professes love, humility, meekness, self-denial, and returning good for evil 
was the teaching that touched me most. I always considered it as the basic 
teaching of Christianity and loved it as such; but it was only after a long 
period of unbelief that its full meaning flashed upon me, that I understood 
'life' as our unlettered working classes understand it, and accepted the same 
creed that they profess, the creed of the Greek Orthodox Church. But I soon 
observed that I should not find in the teaching of the Church the 


confirmation of my idea that love, humility, meekness, and self-denial were 
the essential principles of Christianity. I noticed that this dear to me essence 
of Christianity is not the main point in the teaching of the Church. I saw that 
what appeared to me the most important in Christianity was not recognized 
important by the Church. The Church recognizes something else the most 
important. At first I did not attach much importance to this. The Church/ I 
said to myself, 'acknowledges, besides the teaching of love, humility, and 
self-denial, a dogmatic and ritualistic teaching. This estranges my heart; it is 
even repulsive to me, but there is no harm in it/ 

While, however, submitting to the teaching of the Church, I began to see 
more and more clearly that this peculiarity was not as unimportant as I had 
at first regarded it. I was drawn away from the Church by various 
singularities in its dogmas; by its approval of persecution, capital 
punishment, and war; and also by its intolerance of all other forms of 
worship than its own; but my faith in the teaching of the Church was shaken 
still more by its indifference to what seemed to me the very basis of the 
teaching of Christ, and by its evident partiality for what I could not consider 
an essential part of that teaching. I felt that there was something wrong, but 
I could not make out distinctly what it was, because the Church did not deny 
what seemed to me the main point in the teaching of Christ, though it failed 
to give it its proper position and influence. I could not reprimand the Church 
for denying the essential, but the way the Church recognized this essentisl 
did not satisfy me. The Church did not give me what I expected of it. 

I only passed from 'Nihilism' to the Church because I felt I could not live 
without faith - without a knowledge of what is good and evil, resting on 
something more than my animal instincts. I hoped to find this knowledge in 
Christianity. But Christianity, as it appeared to me then, was only a certain 
disposition of mind - a very vague one. I turned to the Church for obligatory 
precepts of life, but the Church gave me only such as did not draw me 
nearer to the Christian state of mind I longed for, but rather alienated me 
from it. And I could not follow it. I needed and valued life based on the 
Christian principles; the Church gave me the rules of life alien to the 
principles that were dear to me. For the precepts that were given to me by 
the Church concerning belief in dogmas, observance of the sacraments, fast- 
days, and prayers, I did not care; and precepts really founded on the 



teachings of Christ were wanting. Moreover, the precepts of the Church 
weakened, and sometimes even destroyed, that Christian state of mind that 
alone seemed to me to be the true aim of life. What perplexed me most of 
all was that all the evil things that men do, such as condemning private 
individuals, whole nations, or other religions; and the inevitable results of 
these condemnations - executions and wars - were justified by the Church. I 
saw that the teaching of Christ, which teaches us humility, tolerance, 
forgiveness, self-denial, and love, was verbally extolled by the Church, but 
that at the same time she sanctioned what was incompatible with such 
teaching. 

Could the teaching of Christ be so weak and inconsistent? That I could not 
believe. Besides, it had always perplexed me that those parts of the Gospel 
upon which the Church has picked for her dogmas are of an obscure 
character, whereas those parts that teach us how to fulfill the teaching in 
practice are the most definite and clear. While the Church specifies the 
dogmas and the duties derived from them in the clearest manner, they 
spoke of the practice of the teaching itself in the most obscure, dim, and 
mystical expressions. Is it possible that this was what Christ desired for his 
teaching? I could only find the solution of my doubts in the perusal of the 
gospels, and I read them over and over again. Of all the gospels, the Sermon 
on the Mount was the portion that impressed me most, and I studied it 
more often than any other part. Nowhere else does Christ speak with such 
solemnity; nowhere else does he give us so many clear and intelligible moral 
precepts, which commend themselves to everyone; nowhere else does he 
address to a bigger crowd of simple people of any kind. If there are any clear 
and definite precepts of Christianity, they must have been expressed in this 
sermon; and, therefore, in those three chapters of St. Matthew's gospel I 
sought the solution of my doubts. 

Many and many a time I read over the sermon on the Mount, and every 
time I felt the same emotion: excitement and gratification upon reading the 
verses about 'turning my cheek to the one who strikes me/ 'giving up my 
cloak to him who takes my coat,' 'being at peace with all men,' and 'loving 
my enemies,' - and yet there remained in me the same feeling of 
dissatisfaction. The words of God, addressed to everyone, were not clear 
enough. They seemed to enjoin an impossible self-denial that annulled life 



itself, as I understood it, and therefore it seemed to me that such self-denial 
could not be the essential requirement on which man's salvation depended. 
But, then, if that were not the express condition of salvation, there was 
nothing else fixed and clear! I not only read the Sermon on the Mount, but 
the rest of the gospels, and all the Church's commentaries upon them. 

The theological explanations tell us that the teachings of the Sermon on the 
Mount are mere an indication of the perfection after which man must strive; 
but that man, being full of sin, cannot attain this perfection by his own 
unaided strength, and that the salvation of a man lies in faith, prayer, and 
the gifts of the grace of God; but these explanations did not satisfy me. 

I could not agree with that, because it always seemed strange to me, why 
would Christ have given to us such clear and good precepts, addressed 
directly to each and everyone of us, if he knew beforehand that the keeping 
of them was impossible by man in his own unaided strength? On reading 
over these precepts, it always seemed that they applied to me, and that I 
was morally bound to obey them. 

I even felt convinced that I could, immediately and from that very hour, do 
all that they prescribe. I wished and tried to do so, but as soon as any 
difficulty arose in the way of my keeping them, I involuntarily remembered 
the teaching of the Church, that 'man is weak, and can do no good thing by 
himself,' and then I became weak. 

I had been told that it was necessary to believe and to pray, but I felt that 
my faith was weak and therefore I could not pray. I had been told that it was 
necessary to pray for faith - that faith comes through prayer and that prayer 
comes through faith, which, to say the least, was certainly bewildering. But 
by reason and experience showed me that this means is ineffective. It still 
seemed to me that effective can be only my efforts to follow the teaching of 
Christ. 

After much useless study of the works that have been written in proof of the 
divinity or non-divinity of this teaching, and after many doubts and much 
suffering, I was left alone with the mysterious book, in which the teaching of 
Christ is taught. I could not give it that meaning that others did, but could 
not give it another meaning, and I could not abjure the book. It was only 



after losing all faith in the explanations of learned theology and criticism, 
and after dropping all prejudices, as Christ taught 'if you will not receive my 
teaching as a little child, you will not enter the kingdom of God.' (Mark 
10:15), that I began to understand what had until then seemed 
incomprehensible to me. 

It was not by deep thought, or by skillfully comparing or commenting on the 
texts of the gospel, that I came to understand the teaching. On the contrary, 
all grew clear to me for the very reason that I had ceased to rest on any 
interpretations. The text that gave me the key to the truth was the thirty- 
ninth verse of the fifth chapter of St. Matthew, 'You have heard that it has 
been said, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, do not 
resist evil...' The simple meaning of these words suddenly flashed full upon 
me; I accepted the fact that Christ meant exactly what he said; and then, 
though I had found nothing new, all that had hitherto obscured the truth 
cleared away, and the truth itself arose before me in all its solemn 
importance. 

I had often read the passage, but these words had never until now arrested 
my attention: 'I say to you, do not resist evil.' In my conversations since 
with many Christian people, who know the gospels well, I have observed the 
same indifference to the force of this text that I had felt. Nobody specially 
remembered the words; and, while conversing with persons upon the text, I 
have known them to take up the New Testament in order to assure 
themselves that the words were really there. 

The words, 'Whoever shall strike you on your right cheek, turn to him the 
other also,' had always presented themselves to me as requiring endurance 
and self-mastery such as human nature is hardly capable of. They touched 
me. I felt that to act thus would be to attain moral perfection; but I felt, too, 
that I should never be able to obey them if they entailed nothing but 
suffering. I said to myself, 'Well, I will turn my cheek - I will let myself be 
struck again. I will give up my coat - they shall take my all. They shall even 
take away my life. Yet, life is given to me. Why should I thus lose it? This 
cannot be what Christ requires of us.' Then I said to myself, 'Perhaps in 
these words Christ only purposes to extol suffering and self-denial, and in 
doing so he speaks exaggeratingly and his expressions are therefore to be 



regarded as illustrations rather than precise requirements/ But as soon as I 
comprehended the meaning of the words, 'do not resist evil/ it became 
clear to me that Christ does not exaggerate, that he does not require 
suffering for the mere sake of suffering, and that he only expresses clearly 
and definitely what he means. He says, 'Do not resist evil,' and if you do not 
resist evil, you may meet with some who, having struck you on one cheek, 
and meeting with no resistance, will strike you on the other; after having 
taken away your coat, will take away your cloak also; having profited by your 
work, will oblige you to work on; will take, and will never give back. 
'Nevertheless, I say to you, do not resist evil. Still do good to those who even 
strike and abuse you.' Now I understood that the whole force of the 
teaching lay in the words 'do not resist evil,' and that the entire context was 
but an application of that great precept. I saw that Christ does not require us 
to turn the other cheek, and to give away our cloak, in order to make us 
suffer; but he teaches us not to resist evil, and warns us that doing so may 
involve personal suffering. Does a father, on seeing his son set out on a long 
journey, tell him to pass sleepless nights, to eat little, to get wet through, or 
to freeze? Will he not rather say to him, 'Go, and if on the road you are cold 
or hungry, do not be discouraged but go on'? Christ does not say 'Let a man 
strike your cheek, and suffer,' but He says, 'Do not resist evil. Whatever men 
may do to you, do not resist evil.' These words, 'do not resist evil' (the 
wicked man), thus apprehended, were the clue that made all clear to me, 
and I was surprised that I could have hitherto treated them in such a 
different way. Christ meant to say, 'Whatever men may do to you, bear, 
suffer, and submit; but never resist evil.' What could be clearer, more 
intelligible, and more indubitable that this? As soon as I understood the 
exact meaning of these simple words, all that had appeared confused to me 
in the teaching of Christ grew intelligible; what had seemed contradictory 
now became consistent, and what I had deemed superfluous became 
indispensable. All united in one whole, one part fitting into and supporting 
the other, like the pieces of a broken statue put together again in their 
proper places. In the Sermon on the Mountain, as well as in all the Gospels, 
all passages confirmed the same teaching of non-resistance to evil. 

In the Sermon on the Mount, as in throughout the Gospels, Christ represents 
his followers - i.e., those who follow this law of non-resistance - in non 



other way than as turning another cheek, giving up the coat and as liable to 
be persecuted, stoned, and reduced to beggary. 

Elsewhere Christ tells that he who does not take up his cross, who is not 
willing to renounce all, cannot be his student, and he thus describes the man 
who is ready to bear the consequences that may result from the practice of 
the teaching of non-resistance. Christ says to his disciples, 'Be poor, be ready 
to bear persecution, suffering, and even death, without resisting evil. 7 He 
prepares for suffering and death himself without resisting evil; he reproves 
Peter, who grieves over him because Christ proposed to yield in this way; 
and Christ dies, forbidding others to resist evil, remaining true to his 
teaching. 

All his first disciples obeyed the same law of the non-resistance of evil, and 
passed their lives in persecution and poverty, and never returned evil for 
evil. 

It means Christ really meant what he told. We may bring forward, as an 
objection, the difficulty of always obeying such a law; we may even say, as 
unbelievers do, that it is a foolish teaching, that Christ was a dreamer, an 
idealist who gave precepts that are impossible to follow. But, whatever our 
objections may be, we cannot deny that Christ expressed the meaning most 
clearly and distinctly, namely, that man, according to his teaching, must not 
resist evil; he who fully accepts his teaching cannot resist evil. And yet, 
neither believers nor unbelievers understand such simple and clear meaning 
of the words of Christ. 



Chapter 2 

When I at last clearly comprehended that the words 'do not resist evil' do 
really mean that we are never to resist evil, my former ideas concerning the 
teaching of Christ underwent a complete change. I wondered, not so much 
at my eyes being opened to the truth at last, but at the strange darkness 
that had, until then, enveloped my understanding. I knew-we all know- 
that the foundation requirement of the Christian teaching is love toward 
people. Isn't all Christianity summed up in the words, 'turn the other cheek', 
'love your enemies'? I had known that from my earliest childhood. How was 
it, then, that I had not hitherto taken in these words in all their simplicity, 
but rather had sought for some allegorical meaning in them? 'Do not resist 
evil' means never to resist evil, i.e., never commit violence to anyone. If a 
man reviles you, do not revile him in return; suffer, but do no violence. 

Christ said it so clearly and simply that could not be said clearer. While 
believing, or at least endeavoring to believe, that he who gave us this 
commandment was God, how did I come to say that I could not obey it in my 
own strength? If my master were to say to me, 'Go and cut wood,' and I 
were to answer that I could not do it in my own strength, would it not show 
that either I had no faith in my master's words, or that I did not choose to 
obey him? He gave us the commandment of God to follow, he said that 
those who fulfills it and teaches it to others shall receive much more; he says 
that only those who keep His commandment shall receive life; he fulfilled 
this commandment himself, as offering us his example; he expressed this 
commandment in such an easy and clear way that there can be no doubts 
about its meaning; and how could I then say that, though I never really tried 
to fulfill it, this rule was one that it was impossible for a man to keep in his 
own strength, and without supernatural aid? 

God became man for the securing of our salvation. Salvation lies in the fact 
that the second person of the Trinity, God the Son, suffered for us men, 
redeemed us from sin, and gave us the Church through which the grace of 
God is transmitted to all believers. Moreover, God the Son has left us this 
teaching (teaching), and His own example, to show us the way of salvation. 
And yet, I told that the rule of life given to us by Christ was not only a hard 
one, but also an impossible one, apart from supernatural aid. Christ does not 
consider it as such. On the contrary, he says definitely that we are to fulfill 


his commandments, and that he who does not shall not enter the kingdom 
of God. He does not say that it is hard to keep this law; he says, on the 
contrary, 'My yoke is easy and my burden is light.' St. John the Evangelist 
says, 'His commandments are not grievous.' How was it, I said, that the 
express and positive commandment of God, which He Himself speaks of as 
being easy, the commandment which He Himself obeyed as a man, and 
which His first followers also fulfilled, was too hard for me, and even 
impossible for me, without supernatural aid? If a man were to set all the 
faculties of his mind to the annulling of a given law, what more forcible 
argument could he use for its suppression than that it was an impracticable 
law, and that the legislator's own opinion of it was that it could not be kept 
without supernatural aid? And yet, this was exactly what I had thought 
about the commandment 'not to resist evil.' I tried to remember when and 
how the strange idea had first come into my mind, that the teaching of 
Christ was divine in authority but impossible in practice. On reviewing my 
past life, I discovered that this idea had never been transmitted to me in all 
its nakedness, for then it would have repelled me; but that I had 
imperceptibly imbibed it from my earliest childhood, and that the 
associations of my life had confirmed the strange error. 

I was taught from my childhood that Christ is God and that His teaching is 
divine and authoritative; while, on the other hand, I was also told to respect 
those institutions that, by means of violence, secured my safety from evil; I 
was taught to honor those institutions as being sacred. I was taught to resist 
evil; and it was instilled into me that it was humiliating and dishonorable to 
submit to evil and to suffer from it; and that it was praiseworthy to resist 
evil. I was taught to condemn and to execute. I was taught to fight, i.e., to 
resist evil by murder. The army, a member of which I was, was called a 
'Christ-loving' army, and the Church consecrated its mission. I was taught 
from my childhood and until my adulthood to respect that what directly 
contradicts the law of Christ. I was taught to resist an offender by violence 
and to avenge a private insult, or one against my native land, by violence. All 
this was never regarded as wrong, but, on the contrary, I was told that it was 
perfectly right and in no way contrary to Christ's teaching. 

All surrounding interests, such as the peace and safety of my family, my 
property, and myself were based on the law that was rejected by Christ - on 



the law of a 'tooth for a tooth.' 

Ecclesiastical teachers told me that the teaching of Christ was divine, but 
that its observance was impossible on account of the weakness of human 
nature; and that the grace of God alone could enable us to keep this law. 
Secular teachers told me, and the whole order of life proved, that the 
teaching of Christ was impracticable and ideal, which, in words and deeds, 
taught the behavior contrary to his teaching. I imbibed such a notion of the 
practical impossibility of following the divine teaching gradually and almost 
imperceptibly. I was so accustomed to it, it coincided so well with all my 
animal desires, so that I had never observed the contradiction in which I 
lived. I did not see that it was impossible to admit the Godhead of Christ - 
the basis of whose teaching is non-resistance of evil - and, at the same time, 
to work consciously and calmly for the institutions of property, courts of law, 
states, the army, establish life contrary to the teaching of Christ, and then 
pray to the same Christ that we might be enabled to keep His 
commandments - to 'forgive,' and not to 'resist evil.' It did not then occur to 
me, as it does now, that it would be much simpler to regulate our lives 
according to the teaching of Christ; and then, if courts of law, executions, 
and war were found to be indispensably necessary for our welfare, we might 
pray to have them too. 

And I understood from where my error arose. It arose from my professing 
Christ in words and denying him in deed. 

The principle 'not to resist evil' is one that contains the whole substance of 
Christ's teaching, but only when we consider it not only as a saying, but also 
as a law we are bound to obey. 

It is like a latchkey that will open any door, but only if it is well inserted into 
the lock. To consider this rule of life as a principle that cannot be obeyed 
without supernatural aid is to annihilate the whole teaching of Christ 
completely. How can a teaching, the fundamental law of which is cast aside 
as impracticable, be considered practicable in any of its details? To 
nonbelievers, it even seems straight foolish and cannot be considered 
otherwise. 

It is like to build a car, run engine but not to insert a timing belt. This is what 



was done with Christ's teaching when we were taught that it was possible to 
be a Christian without fulfilling his law not to resist evil. 

A few days ago I was reading the fifth chapter of St. Matthew to a Hebrew 
rabbi. That is in the Bible - that is in the Talmud too/ he said at almost each 
saying, pointing out to me, in the Bible and the Talmud passages very much 
like those in the Sermon on the Mount. But when I came to the verse that 
says, 'do not resist evil/ he did not say that is also in the Talmud; but only 
asked me with a smile, 'Do Christians keep this law? Do they turn the other 
cheek to be struck?' I was silent. What answer could I give, when I knew that 
Christians, in our days, far from turning the other cheek when struck, never 
let an opportunity escape of striking a Hebrew on both cheeks. I was greatly 
interested to know if there was any law like this in the Talmud, and I 
inquired. He answered, "No, there is nothing like it; but pray tell me, do 
Christians ever keep this law?' His question showed me clearly that the 
existence of the precept in the law of Christ, which is not only left 
unobserved, but of which the fulfillment is considered impossible, is 
superfluous and irrational. And I was not able to answer that. 

Now that I comprehend the true meaning of the teaching, I see clearly the 
strange state of contradiction within my own self that I had permitted to 
arise. I was confessing Christ as God, and His teaching as divine, and at the 
same time I was arranging my life contrary to that teaching. What was left 
for me to do but to acknowledge the teaching as an impracticable one? In 
word I acknowledged the teaching of Christ as sacred; but I did not carry out 
that teaching in deed, for I admitted and respected the unchristian 
institutions that surrounded me. 

Throughout the Old Testament we find it said that the misfortunes of the 
Israelites arose from their believing in false gods, and not in the true God. In 
the eighth and twelfth chapters of the first Book of Samuel, the prophet 
accuses the people of having chosen, instead of God, who was their King, a 
human king who, according to their opinion, was to save them. 'Do not 
believe in [tohu] vain things,' says Samuel to the people (ISa.12:21). 'They 
will not help you and will not save you, for they are [tohu] vain. In order not 
to perish with your king, keep God alone.' 

My faith in these 'tohu,' in these empty idols, hid the truth from my eyes. In 



my way to Him these 'tohu/ which I did not have the strength to renounce, 
stood before me, obscuring His light. 

One day, as I was passing through Borovitzki gate, I saw a crippled old 
beggar with his head bound up in a ragged cloth and sitting in a corner. I had 
just taken out my purse to bestow a trifle upon him, when a bold, ruddy¬ 
faced young grenadier in a government fur coat came running down the 
Kremlin slope. On seeing the soldier, the beggar sprang up with a look of 
terror and ran limping down toward the Alexander Garden. The grenadier 
pursued him, but, not succeeding in overtaking him, stopped short and 
began to abuse the poor fellow for having dared to sit down near the 
entrance-gate in defiance of orders. I waited until the grenadier came up to 
where I stood, and then asked if he could read. 

'Yes; what of that?' was the answer. 'Have you ever read the gospel?' 'I 
have.' 'Do you know these words: "He who feeds the hungry ..."?' I repeated 
the text to him. He listened attentively. Two passers-by stopped. It was 
evidently disagreeable to the grenadier that, while conscientiously 
discharging his duty by driving people away from the entrance-gate, as he 
was ordered to do, he unexpectedly found himself in the wrong. He looked 
puzzled, and seemed to be searching for some excuse. Suddenly his dark 
eyes brightened up with a look of intelligence, and, moving away as if about 
to return to his post, he asked, 'Have you read the military code?' I told him 
that I had not. 'Well, then, do not talk of what you do not understand,' he 
said, with a triumphant shake of his head; and muffling himself up in his 
overcoat, he went back to his post. 

He was the only man I have met in all my life who strictly, logically, solved 
the problem of our social institutions, which had stood before me, and still 
stands before each who calls himself a Christian. 



Chapter 3 

To affirm that the Christian teaching refers only to personal salvation and 
has no bearing upon state affairs is a great error. To say so is but to assert an 
audacious, groundless, most evident untruth, which a moment's serious 
reflection suffices to destroy. 'Well/ I say to myself, 'I will not resist evil; as a 
private man, I will let myself be struck; but what am I to do if an enemy 
invades my native land, or other nations oppress it? I am called upon to take 
part in a struggle against evil - to go and kill/ The question immediately 
arises: which will be serving God, and which will be serving 'tohu'? To go, or 
not to go? Suppose I am a peasant. I am chosen as the senior member of my 
village, as judge, as juryman. I am bound to take an oath, to judge, and to 
punish. Fellow-creature, what am I to do? I have again to choose between 
the law of God and the law of man. Or let us say I am a monk and live in a 
monastery; the neighboring peasants have taken possession of the hay we 
had mown for our own use. I am sent to take part in a struggle against evil - 
to prosecute these men. I have again to choose between the laws of God 
and the laws of man. None of us can evade the demand for such a decision. 
To say nothing of the class of society that I belong to - military men, judges, 
administrators, whose whole lives are passed in resisting evil - there is not a 
single private individual, be he ever so insignificant, who has not had to 
choose between serving God by fulfilling His commandments, or serving the 
'tohu' in the government institutions of his country. Our private lives are 
interwoven with the organization of the state, and the latter requires 
unchristian duties of us, contrary to the commandments of Christ. At the 
present time, the military service, which is obligatory on all, and the 
participation of each, as jurymen, in the courts of law, place this dilemma 
with striking clarity before all. Each man is called upon to take up an 
instrument of murder - a gun, a sword - even if he does not kill a fellow- 
creature; he loads the gun and sharpens the sword, i.e., he is ready to 
commit murder. Each citizen is called upon to enter the courts of law, to 
take part in judging and punishing his fellow-creature; i.e., each must 
renounce the teaching of Christ that teaches us not to resist evil, not just in 
word but in deed. 

The grenadier's question: the gospel or the military code, the law of God or 
the law of man? It still stands before all of us, as it did in the time of Samuel. 


It stood before Christ and His disciples. It now stands before all those who 
wish to be Christians; it stood before me. 

The teaching of Christ, which teaches love, humility, and self-denial, had 
always attracted me. But, both in the history of the past and in the present 
organization of our lives, I have encountered a contrary law - a law 
repugnant to my heart, my conscience, and my reason, but one that 
flattered my animal instincts. I knew that if I accepted the teaching of Christ, 

I should be forsaken, miserable, persecuted, and sorrowing, as Christ tells us 
His followers will be. I knew that if I accepted that law of man, I should have 
the approbation of my fellow-men; I should be at peace and in safety; all 
possible sophisms would be at hand to quiet my conscience and I should 
'laugh and be merry/ as Christ says. I felt this, and therefore I avoided a 
closer examination of the law of Christ, and tried to comprehend it in a way 
that should not prevent my still leading my animal life. But, finding that 
impossible, I desisted from all attempts at comprehension. 

This led me into a state of mental obscurity, which now seems surprising to 
me. For instance, let me recall my former interpretation of the words, 'Do 
not judge, and you shall not be judged' (Matt. 7:1). 'Do not judge, and you 
shall not be judged; do not condemn, and you shall not be condemned' 

(Luke 6:37). The court of law of which I was a member, and which guarded 
my property and my personal safety, seemed to me so unquestionably 
sacred that it never came into my mind that the words 'do not condemn' 
could have any higher meaning than that we were not to speak evil of our 
fellow-men. The idea never occurred to me that these words could have any 
reference to courts of law, district courts, criminal courts, assizes, courts of 
peace, etc. When I at last took in the real meaning of the words 'do not 
resist evil,' the question arose in my mind, 'What would Christ's opinion be 
of all these courts of law?' And seeing clearly that He would reject them, I 
asked myself, 'Do these words mean that we are not only never to speak ill 
of our brethren, but that we are not to condemn them to punishment by our 
human institutions of justice?' 

In the gospel of St. Luke, chapter 6, verses 37-39, these words come 
immediately after the commandment not to resist evil, and to return good 
for evil. After the words, 'Be merciful, even as your Father in heaven is 



merciful/ we read, 'Do not judge, and you shall not be judged; do not 
condemn, and you shall not be condemned.' 'Doesn't it mean that we are 
not only never to condemn our brother in word - i.e., speak evil of him - 
but that we are not to institute courts of law for the condemnation of a 
fellow-creature to punishment?' I said to myself; and no sooner did this 
question arise, than both my heart and my reason answered in the 
affirmative. 

I know how greatly this way of understanding the words surprises everyone 
at first. I was surprised, too. To show how far I formerly was from the true 
interpretation of these words, I may here mention a foolish saying of mine, 
of which I am now heartily ashamed. Even after having become a believer, 
and having recognized the divinity of the gospel, I used to say, jokingly, on 
meeting with a friend who was an attorney or a judge, 'So, you go on 
judging, and yet isn't it said, "Do not judge, and you shall not be judged"?' I 
was so firmly convinced that these words had no other meaning than that 
we were not to speak ill of one another, that I did not see the blasphemy of 
my own words. So sure was I that the words were not to be taken in a literal 
sense, that I used them - jokingly- in their true application. 

I shall give a circumstantial account of the way in which all my doubts as to 
the real sense of these words were dispersed, and how it became evident to 
me that Christ forbids all human institutions of justice, and that He could 
mean nothing else. 

The first point that struck me, when I understood the commandment, 'Do 
not resist evil,' in its true meaning, was that human courts were not only 
contrary to this commandment, but in direct opposition to the whole 
teaching of Christ, and that therefore He must certainly have forbidden 
them. 

Christ says, 'Do not resist evil.' The sole object of courts of law is - to resist 
evil. Christ enjoins us to return good for evil. Courts of law return evil for 
evil. Christ says, 'Make no distinction between the just and the unjust.' 
Courts of law do nothing else. Christ says, 'Forgive all. Forgive not once, not 
seven times, but forgive without end.' 'Love your enemies.' 'Do good to 
those who hate you.' Courts of law do not forgive, but they punish; they do 
not do good, but evil, to those whom they call the enemies of society. So, 



the true sense of the teaching is that Christ forbids all courts of law. This 
cannot be the case/ I said to myself, 'Christ had nothing to do with human 
courts of law, and never considered them.' But I soon saw that this 
supposition was impossible. From the day of his birth, Christ encountered 
the jurisdiction of Herod, the Sanhedrin, and the high priests. Indeed, we 
find that Christ speaks more than once of tribunals as being an evil. He tells 
his disciples that they will have to be cited before the tribunals, and teaches 
them how they are to behave in courts of law. He says that he Himself will 
be condemned, and sets us all an example of the way in which we are to 
treat the laws of man. There can be no doubt that Christ meant the human 
courts of law, which were to condemn him and his disciples; which have 
always condemned, and still continue to condemn, millions of men. Christ 
must have seen this evil, for he distinctly points it out. In the case of the 
adulteress he positively rejects human justice and proves that, on account of 
each man's own sinful nature, he has no right to judge another. We find the 
same teaching repeated several times, as when he says, for instance, that 
the one who has a beam in his own eye cannot see the mote in his 
neighbor's eye; and that the blind cannot lead the blind. It even explains 
what such delusion causes: the student becomes like his teacher. 

'But, perhaps,' I said to myself, 'this applies only to the judgment of the 
adulteress, and the parable of the mote is only intended to show us the 
frailty of human nature in general. Perhaps Christ does not intend to forbid 
our having recourse to human justice for our protection against evil men.' 
But I saw that this would not hold true either. 

In the Sermon on the Mount, addressed to all men, he says, 'And if anyone 
sues you at the law for your coat, let him have your cloak also.' Therefore he 
forbids our going to law. 

But perhaps this applies only to the relations between private individuals 
and public courts of law. Perhaps Christ does not deny justice itself, and 
admits in Christian societies the existence of persons chosen for the purpose 
of administering justice. I see that this hypothesis is likewise inadmissible. In 
his prayer Christ enjoins all men, without any exception, to forgive as they 
hope to be forgiven. We find the same precept repeated many times. Each 
man must forgive his brother when he prays, and before bringing his gift. 



How, then, can a man judge and condemn another when, according to the 
faith he professes, he is bound to forgive? Thus I see that, according to the 
teaching of Christ, a judge who condemns his fellow-creature to death is no 
Christian. 

But perhaps the connection between the words, 'do not judge, do not 
condemn/ and those that follow proves that they do not refer to human 
courts of law? This is likewise false. On the contrary, the connection 
between these words and those that follow proves clearly that the words 
'do not judge' are directed precisely against the institutions of courts of law. 
According to the gospels of Matthew and Luke, the texts, 'Do not judge; do 
not condemn,' are preceded by the words, 'Do not resist evil, suffer evil, do 
good to all.' In the gospel according to Matthew the words of the Hebrew 
criminal law are repeated, 'An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.' And after 
citing the criminal law, Christ says, 'But you are not to act thus; do not resist 
evil.' Then he goes on to say, 'Do not judge.' So Christ's words refer precisely 
to our human criminal law, and by the words 'do not judge' he clearly rejects 
it. 

Besides this, we find in St. Luke that he not only says, 'Do not judge,' but 
also adds, 'and do not condemn.' The latter word, almost synonymous with 
the former, must have been added with some purpose, and it could have 
been with no other than that of showing clearly the sense in which the first 
word is to be taken. 

Had he wished to say, 'Do not judge your neighbor,' i.e., 'do not speak evil of 
him,' he would have said so; but he says plainly, 'Do not condemn,' and then 
adds, 'and you shall not be condemned; forgive, and you shall be forgiven.' 

But perhaps Christ's words do not apply to courts of law at all, and I give 
them an interpretation of my own that is foreign to them. 

I tried to discover how the first followers of Christ, His disciples, considered 
human courts of law, and whether they approved of them. In chapter 4, 
verses 11 and 12, the disciple James says, 'Do not speak evil of one another, 
brethren. He who speaks evil of his brother, and judges his brother, speaks 
evil of the law, and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a 
doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and 



to destroy. Who are you to judge another?' 

The word that is translated as 'do not speak evil' is the word KaiaAotAecj. 
Even without consulting the dictionary, it is evident to all that this word can 
mean nothing but 'to accuse.' That is the only true meaning of the word, as 
anyone can find by consulting the dictionary. The translation of the passage 
in question is as follows: 'He who speaks evil of his brother speaks evil of the 
law,' and the question involuntarily arises, 'How so?' In speaking evil of my 
brother, I do not speak evil of the law of man. No; but if I accuse and sit in 
judgment over my brother, I evidently condemn the teaching of Christ; i.e., I 
look upon the teaching of Christ as insufficient, and thus judge and condemn 
the law of God. It clearly follows that I do not fulfill this law, but I myself 
become a judge. 'A judge,' Christ says, 'is he who can save.' Then how can I, 
being unable to save, be a judge and punish? 

This whole text speaks of human judgment, and rejects it. The whole of this 
epistle is penetrated with the same idea. In the same epistle of James (2:1- 
13) he says, 'My brethren, do not have the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the 
Lord of glory, together with a respect of persons. For if there comes into 
your assembly a man with a gold ring in fine clothes, and there comes in also 
a poor man in shabby clothes; and you have respect for him who wears the 
fine clothing, and if you say to him, "Sit here in a good place," and say to the 
poor man, "Stand there," or, "Sit here under my footstool," are you not then 
being partial, and have you not become judges with evil thoughts? Hearken, 
my beloved brethren, hasn't God chosen the poor of this world to be rich in 
faith and heirs of the kingdom, which He has promised to those who love 
Him? But you have despised the poor. Don't rich men oppress you, and draw 
you before the judgment seat? Don't they blaspheme that worthy name by 
which you are called? If you fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, 
"You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Lev.19:18), you do well. But if you 
have respect to persons, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as 
transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one 
point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, "Do not commit adultery," also 
said, "Do not kill." Now if you commit no adultery, yet if you kill, you have 
become a transgressor of the law (De.22:22; Le.28:17-255). So speak and act 
as those who shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he who has shown no 
mercy shall have judgment without mercy; mercy triumphs over the law.' 



(The last words, 'mercy triumphs over the law/ have often been translated 
as, 'Mercy is extolled in judgment/ and are cited as meaning that the 
existence of human judgment may be admitted, provided that it is merciful.) 

James exhorts his brethren to make no difference between men. If you 
make any difference, then you SiaeKpiveie, become partial, and are like 
judges with evil thoughts. You judge the beggar as being less worthy than 
the rich man. On the contrary, the rich man is the less worthy one. It is he 
who oppresses you and draws you before the judgment seat. If you live 
according to the law of love and mercy (which James calls the royal law to 
distinguish it from the other), you do well. But if you have respect of 
persons, and make a distinction between rich and poor, you are 
transgressors of the law of mercy. James, bearing in mind the case of the 
adulteress who was brought before Christ to be stoned, or perhaps speaking 
of adultery in general, says that he who punishes an adulteress with death is 
guilty of murder, and transgresses the eternal law, because the same eternal 
law that forbids adultery also forbids murder. He says, 'And act like men 
who are judged by the law of liberty; because there is no mercy for him who 
is himself without mercy, and therefore mercy destroys judgment.' 

Can anything be more clear and definite? Every distinction between men is 
forbidden, every judgment by which we consider the one as good and the 
other as bad; human justice is distinctly pointed out as being evil; it is clearly 
shown that judgment sins by punishing for crime, and that all judgment is 
annihilated by the law of God - mercy. 

I read the epistle of Paul the apostle, who had himself suffered from courts 
of law, and in his first chapter to the Romans he warns them against their 
vices and errors, and speaks against their courts of law (Ro.l:32). 'Who, 
knowing the judgment of God, that they who commit such things are worthy 
of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in those who do them.' 

Romans 2:1-4: 'Therefore you are without excuse, you who judge; for when 
you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge do the same 
things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth 
against those who commit such things. And do you think that when you 
judge those who do such things, and do the same things yourself, that you 
shall escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of His 



goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the 
goodness of God leads you to repentance?' 

The apostle Paul says, while fully aware of the just judgment of God, men 
act unjustly themselves, and they teach others to do the same; therefore the 
man who judges another cannot be justified. 

Such is the opinion I find in the epistles of the apostles in reference to courts 
of law. We all know that, during the whole course of their lives, human 
courts of law could never have been considered by them as anything but evil 
- a trial that was to be endured with firmness and submission to the will of 
God. 

On reviewing the position of the early Christians amidst the heathens, we 
clearly perceive that men who were themselves persecuted by human 
courts of law could never have dared openly to forbid them. They could only 
occasionally allude to them as an evil, the basis of which they could not 
admit. 

I examine the writings of the earliest teachers of Christianity, and I find that 
they all consider the precept never to use force, never to condemn or 
execute, as the one that distinguishes their teaching from all others 
(Athenagorus, Origen). They only submit to the tortures inflicted upon them 
by human justice. The martyrs all confessed the same, not only in word, but 
also in deed. I find that all true Christians, from the disciples up to the time 
of Constantine, regarded courts of law as evils that had to be endured with 
patience; and the possibility of a Christian's taking any part in judging 
another never occurred to any one of them. 

All this convinced me that the words of Christ 'do not judge and do not 
condemn' apply to courts of law; and yet these words are so generally 
understood as meaning only 'speak no evil of your neighbor,' that courts of 
law flourish, so boldly and with such assurance, in all Christian states, and 
are openly upheld by the Church. It was some time before I could feel quite 
convinced that my interpretation was the right one. 'If all have until now 
interpreted the words as referring to evil speaking, and have, consequently 
instituted these courts of law, they must have some good grounds for acting 
thus,' I said to myself, 'and I must be in the wrong.' 



And I turned to the commentaries of the Church. In all of them, from the 
fifth century to the present day, I found that these words are considered as 
signifying to condemn in word - i.e., to speak evil of our neighbor. Now if 
these words are understood as meaning nothing else, doesn't the question 
immediately arise, 'How can we help judging others?' Must not we condemn 
(blame) what is evil? Thus the point on which all comments turn is: what 
may we condemn, and what may we not condemn? We are told that these 
words cannot be considered as forbidding the servants of the Church to 
judge - that the apostles themselves judged (Chrysostom and Theopilactus). 
We are told that these words of Christ probably applied to the Jews, who 
often used to accuse their neighbors of trifling sins while committing greater 
ones themselves. But nowhere is there a word said about our human 
institutions of courts of law, or of the reference that this precept not to 
judge might have to them. Does Christ forbid them, or does he approve of 
them? This question, which arises so naturally in our minds, is left 
unanswered, as if there could not be the slightest doubt that, when once a 
Christian has taken his seat in the judgment hall, he has a right, not only to 
judge his neighbor, but also even to condemn him to death. 

I consulted the Greek, Catholic, and Protestant theologians, as well as the 
works of the Tubingen school, and found that even the most liberal 
interpreters considered these words as meaning 'not to speak evil of.' Not 
one of them solves the question why so narrow an interpretation is given, 
and why they are not considered as prohibiting the institution of courts of 
law; or why Christ, while forbidding our speaking evil of a fellow-creature - 
which each of us may often do inadvertently - does not consider as wrong, 
and does not forbid, the same condemnation when given consciously and 
accompanied by violence against the condemned man. That the word 
'condemn' may apply to judiciary condemnation, from which millions suffer, 
is not even hinted at. Nor is this all. By means of these very words, 'do not 
judge and do not condemn,' the form of judiciary condemnation is set 
altogether apart, and fenced round. Our theological interpretations say that 
the existence of courts of law in Christian states is necessary, and is not 
contrary to the law of Christ. 

This made me doubt the sincerity of these interpretations, and I applied 
myself to a closer examination of the translation of the words 'judge' and 



'condemn/ which is the thing I ought to have begun with. In the original 
these words are Kpivco and KotiaS lko^cj. The incorrect rendering of the word 
KaxaAaAecj in the epistle of James, which is translated as 'do not speak evil/ 
confirmed my doubts of the correctness of the translation. 

I consulted the translation of the words xpivco and KotiaS iko^cj in the 
gospels in various languages, and I found that the word 'to condemn' is 
translated in the Vulgate and in French by the word condemnare; in 
Slavonic, ocywA anrb; by Luther, verdammen - to damn, to doom. 

The different renderings of these words increased my doubts, and I asked 
myself what the Greek word Kpivco, used in both the above-mentioned 
gospels, could really mean, and what was the true signification of the word 
KotiaSiKo^cd, which is used by Luke the Evangelist, who wrote, according to 
the opinion of all able scholars, in good Greek? If a man, who knew nothing 
about the gospel and the interpretations given to it were to have this saying 
placed before him, how would he translate it? 

I consulted the common dictionary, and I found that the word xpivco has 
many different meanings, and among others is very often used in the sense 
of 'condemning by judgment' - executing - but never in that of 'evil¬ 
speaking.' I consulted the glossary of the New Testament, and I found that 
this word is often used there in the sense of condemning by judgment. It is 
sometimes used as meaning 'to take away,' but never as 'to speak evil of.' 
And so I saw that the word Kpivco may be rendered in several ways, but that 
a translation that renders it as 'speaking evil of' is the furthest from the 
original. 

I looked for the word Kon:a6iKa(/jd and added to it the word Kpivco, which has 
several meanings, for the purpose of explaining the sense in which the 
writer himself takes the first word. I looked in the common dictionary for the 
word KaiaSiKa^cd and I found that this word never had any other meaning 
than to 'condemn by judgment' or to 'execute.' I consulted the glossary of 
the New Testament, and I found that this word is used in the New 
Testament four times, and every time in the sense of 'condemn', 'execute.' I 
consulted the context, and I found that this word is used in the epistle of 
James, chapter 5, verse 6, in which it is said, 'You have condemned and 
killed the just.' The word 'condemned' is the same word, KaTa6u<a(/jd, which 



is used in reference to Christ, who was condemned to death; and in no other 
way and in no other meaning is this word used, either in the whole New 
Testament or in any Greek dialect. 

What can this mean? What a state of idiocy have I fallen into! All of us, when 
reflecting on the destiny of man, have been struck with terror at the 
sufferings and evils that our human criminal laws have brought into our lives 
- evils both for those who judge and for those who are judged, from the 
executions of Tshingis-Han in the second half of the 12th century and the 
revolutions to those of the present day. 

No man of feeling has escaped the impression of horror and doubt 
concerning 'good/ produced by the recital, if not by the sight, of men 
executing their fellow-men by rods, the guillotine, or the gallows. 

In the gospels, every word of which we esteem sacred, it is said clearly and 
distinctly, 'You have the criminal law - a tooth for a tooth; and I give you a 
new one - do not resist the evil man. Fulfill this commandment all of you; do 
not return evil for evil; always do good to all; forgive all/ 

And farther on we read, 'Do not judge/ Then, in order to render all doubt 
impossible as to the meaning of his words, Christ adds, 'do not condemn to 
punishment by courts of law/ 

My heart says clearly and distinctly, 'Do not execute/ Knowledge says, 'Do 
not execute; the more you execute, the more evil there will be/ Reason 
says, 'Do not execute; you cannot put a stop to evil by evil/ The Word of 
God, which I believe in, says the same. I used to read the whole teaching. I 
read these words, 'Do not judge and you shall not be judged; do not 
condemn and you shall not be condemned; forgive and you shall be 
forgiven/ I acknowledged that these were God's words, and I thought they 
meant that we are not to gossip or slander, and I continued to consider 
courts of law as Christian institutions, and myself as a judge and a Christian! 

I was shocked at the grossness of the error I was indulging. 



Chapter 4 

Now I understood what Christ meant when he said, 'You have heard that it 
has been said, “An eye for and eye, and a tooth for a tooth." And I say to 
you, do not resist evil.' Christ means, 'You have been taught to consider it 
right and rational to protect yourselves against evil by violence, to pluck out 
an eye for and eye, to institute courts of law for the punishment of 
criminals, and to have a police and an army to defend you against the 
attacks of an enemy; but I say to you, do no violence to any man, take no 
part in violence, never do evil to any man, not even to those whom you call 
your enemies.' 

I now understood that, in this teaching of non-resistance, Christ not only 
tells us what the natural result of following his teaching will be, but by 
placing this same teaching in opposition to the Law of Moses, the Roman 
law, and the various codes of the present time, he clearly shows that it 
ought to be the basis of our social existence and should deliver us from the 
evil we have brought on ourselves. He says, 'You think to amend evil by your 
laws, but they only aggravate it. There is one way by which you can put a 
stop to evil; it is by indiscriminatingly returning good for evil. You have tried 
the other law for thousands of years; now try mine, which is the very 
reverse.' 

Strange to say, I have had frequent opportunities lately of conversing with 
men of diverse opinions on this teaching of non-resistance. I have met with 
some who agreed with me, though these have been few. But there are two 
orders of men who always refuse to admit, even in principle, a direct 
understanding of this teaching, and warmly uphold the justice of resisting 
evil. They are men belonging to two extreme poles: our Christian 
conservative patriots, who consider their Church as the true orthodox one, 
and our revolutionary atheists. Neither the former nor the latter will give up 
their right to resist by violence what they consider as evil. Even their 
cleverest, most learned men close their eyes to the simple, self-evident 
truth, that if we admit the right of one man to resist what he considers as 
evil by violence, we cannot refuse another the right to resist by violence 
what he in his turn may consider as evil. 

A short time ago I met with a correspondence particularly instructive as 


bearing on this very point. It was carried on between an orthodox Slavophil 
and a Christian revolutionist. The former excused the violence of war in the 
name of his oppressed Slavonian brethren, and the latter vindicated the 
violence of the revolution in the name of his oppressed brethren, the 
Russian peasants. Both admit the necessity for violence, and both ground 
their reasoning on the teaching of Christ. 

Each of us gives the teaching of Christ an interpretation of his own, but it is 
never the direct and simple one that flows out of His words. 

We have grounded the conduct of our lives on a principle that he rejects; we 
do not choose to understand his teaching in its simple and direct sense. 
Those who call themselves 'believers' believe that Christ-God, the second 
Person of the Trinity, made Himself man in order to set us an example how 
to live, and they strictly fulfill the most complicated duties, such as preparing 
for the sacraments, building churches, sending out missionaries, naming 
pastors for parochial administration, etc.; they forget only one trifling 
circumstance - to do as he tells them. Unbelievers, on the other hand, try to 
regulate their lives somehow or other, but not in accordance with the law of 
Christ, feeling convinced beforehand that it is worthless. Nobody ever tries 
to fulfill his teaching. Nor is that all. Instead of making any effort to follow 
his commandments, both believers and unbelievers decide beforehand that 
to do so is impossible. 

Christ clearly says that the law of resistance by violence, which you have 
made the basis of your lives, is unnatural and wrong; and he gives us instead 
the law of non-resistance, which, he tells us, can alone deliver us from evil. 
He says, 'You think to eradicate evil by your human laws of violence; they 
only increase it. During thousands and thousands of years you have tried to 
annihilate evil by evil, and you have not annihilated it; you have but 
increased it. Follow the teaching I give you by word and deed, and you will 
prove its practical power.' 

Not only does he speak thus, but he also remains true to his own teaching 
not to resist evil in his life and in his death. 

Believers take all this in with their ears and hear it read in churches, calling it 
the Word of God. They call him God, and then they say, 'His teaching is 



sublime, but the organization of our lives renders its observance impossible; 
it would change the whole course of our lives, to which we are so used and 
with which we are so satisfied. Therefore, we believe in this teaching only as 
an ideal that mankind must strive after - an ideal that is to be attained by 
prayer, by believing in the sacraments, in redemption, and in the 
resurrection of the dead/ Others, unbelievers, the free interpreters of 
Christ's teaching, the historians of religion - Strauss, Renan, and others - 
adopting the interpretation of the Church, that this teaching has no direct 
application to life and is only an ideal teaching that can only serve to console 
the weak-minded, say, very seriously, that the teaching of Christ was all very 
well for the savage population of the deserts of Galilee, but that we, with 
our civilization, can only consider it as a lovely reverie ' du charmant 
Docteur/ as Renan calls Him. According to their opinion, Christ could not 
attain the height of understanding all the wisdom of our civilization and 
refinement. If he had stood on the same scale of civilization as these learned 
men, he would not have uttered those pretty trifles about the birds of the 
air, about letting one's cheek be struck, and about taking no care for 
tomorrow. Learned historians judge Christianity according to what they see 
in our Christian society. Now the Christian society of our times considers our 
life as a good and holy one, with its institutions of solitary imprisonment, of 
fortresses, sweatshops, journals, brothels, and parliaments, while it only 
borrows from the teaching of Christ what is not against these habits of life. 
And, as Christ's teaching is in direct opposition to all this, nothing is taken 
from that teaching but its mere words. The learned historians see this, and 
not having the same interest in concealing the fact as the so-called believers 
have, they subject this, for them, meaningless teaching of Christ to a 
profound analysis, argue against it, and prove on good grounds that 
Christianity never was anything but the dream of an idealist. 

And yet it seems to me that before pronouncing an opinion upon the 
teaching of Christ, we ought clearly to understand what it is, and in order to 
decide whether his teaching is rational or not, it is necessary first of all to 
believe that he meant exactly what he said. This is just what neither the 
interpreters of the Church nor free-thinkers do, and the reason why is not 
hard to see. 

We know very well that the teaching of Christ, as we have received it, 



embraces all the errors into which humanity has fallen, all the 'tohu/ empty 
idols, the existence of which we try to justify by calling them church, 
government, culture, science, arts, and civilization, thinking thus to exclude 
them from the rank of errors. But Christ warns us against them all, without 
excluding any 'tohu.' 

Not only Christ's words, but those of all Hebrew prophets, of John the 
Baptist, and of all the truly wise men who have ever lived, have referred to 
this same church, this same government, culture, civilization, etc., calling 
them evils and the causes of man's perdition. 

For instance, suppose an architect were to say to the owner of a house, 

'Your house is in a bad state; it must be wholly rebuilt,' and were then to go 
on giving all the necessary details about the kinds of beams that would be 
required, how they were to be cut, and where placed. If the owner were to 
turn a deaf ear to the architect's words about the ruinous condition of the 
house and the necessity for its being rebuilt, and were only to listen with a 
feigned interest to the secondary details concerning the proposed repairs, 
the architect's counsels would evidently appear but so much useless talk; 
and if the owner happened to feel no great respect for the builder, he would 
call his advice foolish. This is exactly what occurs with the teaching of Christ. 

I used this simile for want of a better one, and I remember that Christ, while 
preaching his teaching, used one very like it. He said, 'I will destroy your 
temple, and within three days I will build up another.' He was crucified for 
these words. His teaching is crucified for the same reason up to the present 
time. 

The least that can be required of those who judge another man's teaching is 
that they should take the teacher's words in the exact sense in which he 
uses them. Christ does not consider his teaching as some high ideal of what 
mankind should be but cannot attain to, nor does he consider it as a 
chimerical, poetical fancy, fit only to captivate the simple-minded 
inhabitants of Galilee; he considers his teaching as work - a work that is to 
save mankind. His suffering on the cross was no dream; he groaned in agony 
and died for his teaching. And how many people have died, and will still die, 
in the same cause? Such teaching cannot be called a dream. 



Every teaching of truth is a dream for those who are in error. We have come 
to such a state of error that there are many among us who say, as I did 
myself formerly, that this teaching of Christ is chimerical because it is 
incompatible with the nature of man. It is incompatible with the nature of 
man, they say, to turn the other cheek when he has been struck; it is 
incompatible with the nature of man to give up his property to another - to 
work, not for himself, but for others. It is natural to man, they say, to protect 
himself, his own safety, that of his family, and his property - in other words, 
it is the nature of man to struggle for life. Learned lawyers prove 
scientifically that the most sacred duty of a man is to protect his rights - i.e., 
to struggle. 

We need only for one moment to cast aside the idea that the present 
organization of our lives, as established by man, is the best and most sacred, 
and then the argument that the teaching of Christ is incompatible with 
human nature immediately turns against the arguer. Who will deny that it is 
repugnant and harrowing to a man's feelings to torture or kill, not only a 
man, but also even a dog, a hen, or a calf? (I have known men, living by 
agricultural labor, who have ceased entirely to eat meat only because they 
had to kill their own cattle.) And yet our lives are so organized that for one 
individual to obtain any advantage in life another must suffer, which is 
against human nature. The whole organization of our lives, the complicated 
mechanism of our institutions, whose sole object is violence, are but proofs 
of the degree to which violence is repugnant to human nature. No judge will 
ever undertake to strangle with his own hands the man whom he has 
condemned to death. No magistrate will himself drag a peasant from his 
weeping family in order to shut him up in prison. Not a single general, not a 
single soldier, would kill hundreds of Turks or Germans, and devastate their 
villages - no, not one of them would consent to wound a single man, were it 
not in war, and in obedience to discipline and the oath of allegiance. Cruelty 
is only exercised (thanks to our complicated social machinery) when it can 
be so divided among a number that none shall bear the sole responsibility, 
or recognize how unnatural all cruelty is. Some make laws, others apply 
them; others, again, drill their fellow-creatures into habits of discipline - i.e., 
of senseless passive obedience; and these same disciplined men, in their 
turn, do violence to others - killing without knowing why or wherefore. But 



let a man even for a moment shake off in thought the net of worldly 
institutions that so ensnares him, and he will see what is really incompatible 
with his nature. 

If once we cease to affirm that the evil we are so used to, and profit by, is an 
immutable divine truth, we may see clearly which is the more natural to 
man - violence, or the law of Christ. Which is better - to know that the 
comfort and safety of my family and myself, all my joys and pleasures, are 
obtained at the price of the misery, depravity, and suffering of millions, by 
yearly executions, by hundreds of thousands of suffering prisoners, and by 
millions of soldiers, policemen and sergeants torn from their homes and half 
stupefied by military discipline, who protect my idle pleasures by keeping 
starving men at a distance with their loaded pistols; to know that every 
dainty morsel I put into my mouth, or give my children, is obtained at the 
price of all this suffering, which is inevitable, in order to obtain these 
dainties; or to know that my fare is my own, that nobody suffers for the 
want of it, and that nobody has suffered in procuring it for me? 

It is sufficient to comprehend, once and for all, that, in our present 
organization of life, every joy and every moment of peace is bought at the 
cost of the privations and sufferings of thousands, who are only restrained 
by violence, in order to see clearly what is natural to man; i.e., not only to 
the animal nature of man, but to his rational nature as well. It is sufficient to 
understand the teaching of Christ in all its high significance and with all the 
consequences it entails, to see that it is not inconsistent with human nature, 
but that, on the contrary, his whole teaching throws aside what is 
inconsistent with human nature - the delusive human doctrine of resistance 
of evil, which is the chief cause of all human misery. 

The teaching of Christ, which teaches us not to resist evil is - a dream! But 
the sight of men in whose souls love and pity are innate, spending their lives 
in burning their brethren at the stake, scourging them, breaking them on the 
wheel, lashing, slitting their nostrils, putting them to the rack, keeping them 
fettered, sending them to the galleys or the gallows, shooting them, 
condemning to solitary confinement, imprisoning women and children, 
organizing the slaughter of tens of thousands by war, bringing about 
periodical revolutions and rebellions, the sight of others passively fulfilling 



these atrocities, the sight of others again writhing under these tortures or 
avenging them - this is no dream! 

When once we clearly understand the teaching of Christ, we see that it is 
not the world given by God to man for his happiness that is a dream, but the 
world such as men have made it for their own destruction that is a wild 
terrifying dream - the delirium of a madman - a dream from which it is 
enough to awake once, never to return to it. 

God came down from heaven - the Son of God, the Second Person of the 
Holy Trinity - and became man to redeem us from the punishment entailed 
by the sin of Adam. We're taught to think that this God must speak in some 
mysterious, mystical way, difficult to be understood, that his words can only 
be understood through faith and God's grace; and yet God's words are so 
simple and so clear. He says, 'Do no evil to each other, and there will be no 
evil.' Is it possible that the revelation of God is so simple? Can this be all? All 
this is so familiar to us. 

The prophet Elijah, having fled from the haunts of men and concealed 
himself in a rock, had it revealed to him that he should see God at the 
entrance of the cavern. A tempest arose - the trees were rent asunder. 

Elijah thought God was there and looked, but God was not there. The earth 
quaked, fire issued out of it, the rock was split in two, and the mountains 
fell. Elijah looked, but God was not there. Then all grew still and calm, and a 
light breeze wafted the fragrance of the freshened fields toward him. Elijah 
looked, and God was there! It is thus with the simple words of God, 'Do not 
resist evil.' 

They are very simple, but they contain in themselves the sole and eternal 
law of God and man. This law is eternal, and if in history we find any 
progress made toward the annihilation of evil, it is due to those who truly 
understood the teaching of Christ, who suffered evil without resisting by 
violence. The progression of mankind toward good is brought about by 
martyrdom, not by tyranny. Fire cannot extinguish fire, no more than evil 
can extirpate evil. Good, meeting with evil and remaining untainted by it, 
can alone conquer evil. There is a law in the heart of each man that is 
immutable. Men may turn aside from it or conceal it from others; 
nevertheless it is the only path that leads to true happiness. Each step that 



has brought us nearer to this great end was taken in the name of the 
teaching of Christ: 'Do not resist evil.' It is with great confidence the follower 
of Christ can say, in defiance of all the temptations around him and the 
threats held out to him, 'It is not by violence but by doing good that you will 
eradicate evil.' And if the progress is made slowly, it is only because the 
clarity, simplicity, and rationality of the teaching of Christ and its inevitable 
absolute necessity are concealed from the eyes of men in the most crafty 
and dangerous manner; concealed under a spurious teaching, falsely called 
his. 



Chapter 5 

Everything tended to convince me that I had now found the true 
interpretation of Christ's teaching. But it was a long while before I could get 
used to the strange thought that after so many men had professed the 
teaching of Christ during 1,800 years, and had devoted their lives to the 
study of his teaching, it was given to me to discover his teaching as 
something altogether new. It seemed strange, nevertheless so it was. 

Christ's teaching of 'non-resistance' seemed to rise before me as something 
hitherto unknown and unfamiliar to me. And I asked myself how this could 
be. Had some false conception of Christ's teaching prevented my 
understanding it? 

When I first began to read the gospel I was not in the position of one who 
heard the teaching of Christ for the first time. I already had a complete 
theory concerning the sense in which it was to be taken. Christ did not 
appear to me as a prophet, come to reveal the law of God to man, but 
rather as an expounder and amplifier of the indubitable divine law well 
known to me. I already possessed a complete, definite, and very 
complicated doctrine concerning God and the creation of the world and of 
man, as well as concerning the commandments of God, as transmitted to us 
through Moses. 

In the gospel I found the words, 'You have been told, "An eye for and eye, 
and a tooth for a tooth," but I say to you, do not resist evil.' The precept, 'An 
eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,' was the commandment given by 
God to Moses. The precept, 'I say to you, do not resist evil,' was a new 
commandment that reversed the first. 

Had I considered the teaching of Christ simply, without the theological 
theory I had imbibed from my earliest childhood, I should have understood 
the true sense of these simple words. I should have seen that Christ sets 
aside the old law and gives a new one. But it had been instilled into me that 
Christ did not reject the Law of Moses - that, on the contrary, he confirmed 
it to the least jot and tittle, and amplified it. The seventeenth and eighteenth 
verses of the fifth chapter of St. Matthew, which seem to confirm that 
assertion, had, in my former studies of the gospel, struck me by their 
obscurity, and had raised doubts in my mind. On reading the Old Testament, 


especially the last books of Moses, in which so many trivial, useless, and 
even cruel laws are laid down, each preceded by the words, 'And God said to 
Moses/ it seemed passing strange to me that Christ should have confirmed 
such laws; his doing so seemed incomprehensible. But I then left the 
problem unsolved. I blindly believed the teaching of my childhood: that 
these commandments were inspired by the Holy Ghost, that they were in 
perfect harmony with each other, that Christ confirmed the Law of Moses, 
and that he amplified and completed it. I could, indeed, never clearly explain 
to myself wherein the amplification lay, nor how the striking opposition, so 
obvious to all, between the verses 17-20 and the words 'but I say to you' 
could be harmonized. But when I at last really understood the clear and 
simple meaning of Christ's teaching, I saw that these two commandments 
were in direct opposition to each other; that there could be no question of 
harmony between them, or of the one being an amplification of the other; 
that it was necessary to accept either the one or the other, and that the 
interpretation of verses 17-20 of the fifth chapter of St. Matthew, which, as I 
have already said, had struck me by their want of clarity, was erroneous. 

On a second reading of the same verses 17-20, which had seemed so 
unintelligible to me, their meaning flashed full upon me. 

This again was not the result of my having discovered anything new, or 
having made any alteration of the words; it was due solely to my having cast 
aside the false interpretation that had been given to them. 

Christ says (Matthew 5:17-19), 'Do not think that I have come to destroy the 
law or (the teaching of) the prophets. I have not come to destroy, but to 
fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle 
(the least particle) shall in no way pass from the law, until all is fulfilled.' 

And (verse 20) he adds, 'Except your righteousness shall exceed the 
righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall in no case enter the 
kingdom of heaven.' 

Christ means by these words, 'I have not come to destroy the eternal law, 
for the fulfillment of which your books and prophecies are written; but I 
have come to teach you how to fulfill that eternal law. I speak not of the law 
that your teachers the Pharisees call the law of God, but of the eternal law, 



which is less liable to change than heaven and earth.' 

I here give the meaning of the text in other words, solely for the purpose of 
drawing the mind away from the incorrect interpretation usually offered. If 
this incorrect interpretation did not exist, we should see that the idea of 
Christ could not be better or more definitely expressed than by these words. 

The interpretation that Christ does not reject the Mosaic Law is based on the 
fact that in this passage, without any ostensible reason (except the 
comparison of the jot of the written law) and contrary to the true sense, the 
word ' law' is treated as meaning the 'written law,' and not the eternal law. 
But Christ does not speak here of the written law. If Christ, in this passage, 
had spoken of the written law, he would have used the words 'the law and 
the prophets,' as he always does in speaking of the written law; but he uses 
a very different expression: 'the law or the prophets.' Had Christ meant to 
speak of the written law, he would have used the words 'the law and the 
prophets' in the next verse, which is but the continuation of the preceding 
one; but there He uses the word 'law' alone. Moreover we find, in the 
gospel according to St. Luke, that Christ uses the same words in a manner 
that leaves no doubt as to their true meaning (Luke 16:15). Christ says to the 
Pharisees, who thought to justify themselves by the written law, 'You are 
those who justify themselves before men; but God knows your hearts, for 
that which is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of 
God. The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom 
of God is preached, and every man presses into it.' And immediately after 
this, in the 17th verse, we read, 'And it is easier for heaven and earth to 
pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.' The words 'the law and the prophets, 
until John,' annul the written law. The words 'it is easier for heaven and 
earth to pass, than for one tittle of the law to fail,' confirm the eternal law. 

In the first text Christ says 'the law and the prophets,' i.e. the written law; in 
the second He uses the word 'law' alone, i.e. the eternal law. It is obvious, 
therefore, that the eternal law is here set in opposition to the written law, 
and that exactly the same occurs in the context of the gospel of St. 

Matthew, where the eternal law is expressed by the words 'the law or the 
prophets.' 

The history of the different renderings of this text (v.17-18) is very curious. 



In most of the transcripts the word 'law' is not followed by the words 'and 
the prophets/ In this case there can be no doubt of its signifying 'the eternal 
law.' In other transcripts, as, for instance, in those of Tischendorf and the 
canonical transcripts, the word 'prophets' is added - not with the 
conjunction and, but with the disjunctive or - 'the law or the prophets,' 
which likewise excludes the meaning of 'the written law,' and confirms that 
of the 'eternal law.' 

In some transcripts again, which are not adopted by the Church, we find the 
word 'prophets' preceded by the conjunction and, and not by or; in these 
transcripts, after the repetition of the word 'law,' the words 'and the 
prophets' are again added. Thus the meaning given to the whole saying, by 
this remodeling, is that Christ's words refer only to the written law. 

These variations give us the history of the various interpretations to which 
this passage has been subjected. One point is obvious: Christ speaks here, as 
he does in the gospel according to St. Luke, of the eternal law; but we find 
men among the transcribers of the gospels who have added the words 'and 
the prophets' to the word 'law,' with the design of rendering the Mosaic Law 
obligatory, and have thus altered the sense of the text. 

Other Christians, again, who reject the Mosaic Law, either leave out the 
word completely, or substitute the word r| ( or), for the word koh ( and). And 
thus the passage enters the canon with the disjunctive or. Yet though the 
text adopted by the canon is so indubitably clear, our canonical 
commentators continue to expound on the passage in the spirit of the 
alterations that have not been adopted. Countless commentators have 
treated this passage, and as the expounder agrees less with the simple, 
direct sense of the teaching of Christ, the further his commentary must 
necessarily be from the true sense of that teaching. The majority of 
expounders retain the apocryphal sense, which the text rejects. 

In order to be convinced that Christ speaks in this verse only of the eternal 
law, it will suffice to fully understand the word that has given rise to these 
false interpretations. In Russian, it is '3aKOH-b' (law); in Greek vopoq; in 
Hebrew, 'tora.' This word has two principal meanings in the Russian, Greek, 
and Hebrew languages: the one, the unexpressed, unwritten law; the other, 
the written expression of what certain men call the law. Indeed, the 



difference exists in all languages. 

In Greek, in the epistles of Paul, the difference is sometimes marked by the 
use of the article. In speaking of the written law, the apostle omits the 
article before the word law, and when he speaks of the eternal law, the 
article is prefixed. 

The ancient Hebrews, the prophets, and Isaiah always use the word 'tora' 
(the law) to indicate the eternal, unwritten, but revealed law of God. This 
same word 'tora' (the law) was first used by Ezra, and later we find it in the 
Talmud, as signifying the five books of Moses, which bear the general title of 
'tora' in the same sense as our word 'Bible/ with this difference, however, 
that we distinguish the Bible from the law of God by two different 
denominations, while in the Hebrew language there is but one word for 
both. 

Therefore Christ, using the word 'tora/ takes it in the two different accepted 
meanings of the word - either confirming it, as Isaiah and the other 
prophets do, in the sense of the law of God, which is eternal, or rejecting it, 
when He refers to the Mosaic Law. But in order to make a distinction 
between the different meanings of the word, he always adds 'and the 
prophets/ and the pronoun 'your/ in speaking of the written law. 

When Christ says, 'As you would want men to treat you, also treat them 
likewise; this is the whole law and the prophets/ He refers to the written 
law. He tells us that the whole written law may be reduced to this sole 
expression of the eternal law; and, by these his words, He annuls the written 
law. 

When he says (Luke 16:16), 'The law and the prophets until John the 
Baptist/ He refers to the written law, and by these words asserts that it is no 
longer obligatory. 

When he says (John 7:19), 'Didn't Moses give you the law, and yet none of 
you keeps the law?' or (John 8:17), 'Isn't it said in your law?' or again (John 
15:25), 'The word that is written in their law,' He refers to the written law - 
the law that he rejects - the law by which he was, soon after, sentenced to 
death. John 19:7: 'The Jews answered him, "We have a law, and by our law 
he ought to die".' It is obvious that this law of the Hebrews, by which Christ 



himself was sentenced to death, was not the law that he taught. But when 
Christ says, 'I come, not to destroy the law, but to teach you to fulfill it, for 
nothing can be altered in the law, but all must be fulfilled/ He does not 
speak of the written law, but of the divine, eternal law. 

It may be said that these proofs are controvertible; that I have skillfully 
assorted the contexts, and have carefully concealed all that could contradict 
my interpretation; that the commentaries given by the Church are very clear 
and convincing, and that Christ did not destroy the Law of Moses, but that 
he left it in full force. Let us suppose this to be the case. What, then, does 
Christ teach? 

According to the commentaries of the Church, he taught men that he was 
the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God the Father, and that he had 
come down from heaven to redeem mankind from the sin of Adam. But 
whoever has read the gospel knows that Christ says nothing of this, or, at 
least, alludes to it in very ambiguous terms; the passages in which Christ 
speaks of himself as being the Second Person of the Trinity, and of his 
redeeming mankind, are the shortest and least perspicuous in the gospels. 

In what, then, does the rest of Christ's teaching consist? It is impossible to 
deny, what all Christians have always acknowledged, that the main point in 
Christ's teaching consists in his rules of life - how men are to live together. 

Now, if we admit that Christ taught a new system of life, we must form 
some definite idea of the men among whom he taught. 

Take, for instance, the Russians, the English, the Chinese, the Hindus, or 
even any wild insular tribe, and you will be sure to find that they all have 
their own rules of life, their own laws; and that no teacher could introduce 
new laws of life without destroying the former ones; he could not teach 
without infringing them. Such would be the case everywhere. The teacher 
would inevitably have to begin by destroying our laws, which have grown 
precious and almost sacred in our eyes. Perhaps in our days it might happen 
that the teacher of a new teaching of life would only destroy our civil laws, 
our government, and our customs without interfering with the laws that we 
call divine, though this is hardly probable. But the Hebrews had only one law 
- a divine law that embraced life in its minutest details. What could a 
preacher teach them if he began by declaring that the entire law of the 



people to whom he preached was inviolable? But let us assume that this is 
not regarded as a proof. Then let those who assert that Christ's words 
confirm the Mosaic Law explain to themselves who they were whom Christ 
denounced during his whole life; who did he speak against, calling them 
Pharisees, lawyers, and scribes? 

Who was it that refused to follow the teaching of Christ, and crucified Him? 

If Christ acknowledged the Mosaic Law, where were the true followers of 
the law, whom Christ must have approved of? Is there a single one? We are 
told that the Pharisees were a sect. The Hebrews do not say so. They call the 
Pharisees the true fulfillers of the law. But let us suppose they were a sect. 
The Sadducees were also a sect. Where, then, were the true believers - 
those who did not belong to any sect? 

In the gospel according to St. John, all the enemies of Christ are called 
Hebrews. They do not assent to Christ's teaching; they oppose it only 
because they are Hebrews. But in the gospel the Pharisees and Sadducees 
are not the only enemies of Christ; the lawgivers, who keep the Mosaic Law, 
the scribes, who study it, and the elders, who are considered as the 
representatives of the popular wisdom, are likewise called the enemies of 
Christ. 

Christ says, 'I did not come to call the righteous to repentance,' to a change 
of life, pexavoia, 'but sinners.' Where were the righteous, and who were 
they? Surely Nicodemus was not the only one? And even Nicodemus is 
described as being a good man, but one who had gone astray. We have 
grown so used to the singular interpretation given to us, that the Pharisees 
and some wicked Hebrews crucified Christ, that the simple question never 
occurs to us, 'Where were the true Hebrews, who kept the law and who 
were neither Pharisees nor wicked men?' No sooner does the question arise 
than all grows clear. Christ, be he God or man, brought his teaching to a 
people who already had a law that gave them definite rules of life, and 
which they called the law of God. In what light could Christ have considered 
that law? 

Every prophet - teacher of a faith - on revealing the law of God to a people, 
will find that they already possess a law that they consider as the divine law, 



and he cannot avoid a twofold application of the word, as referring either to 
what men wrongly consider the law of God (your law) or as referring to the 
true eternal law of God. Moreover, not only is the preacher of the new 
teaching unable to avoid the two-fold use of the word, but it often happens 
that he does not even endeavor to do so, and purposely unites both ideas, in 
order to point out that the law confessed by those he tries to convert, 
though defective as a whole, is not devoid of some divine truths. And it is 
just these truths, so familiar to his hearers, which every preacher will take as 
the basis of his preaching. Christ does so in addressing the Hebrews, who 
have the same word 'tora' for both laws. Referring to the Mosaic Law, and 
more often still to the prophets, especially the prophet Isaiah, whom he 
often quotes, Christ acknowledges that in the Hebrew law, and in the 
prophets, there are eternal truths, divine truths, which coincide with the 
eternal law; and he bases his teaching upon them, as for instance in the 
saying 'Love God and your neighbor.' 

Christ expresses this idea on many occasions, e.g., Luke 10:26: 'What is 
written in the law? How do you read it? ' We may find the eternal truth in 
the law, if we can read. And he points out more than once that the precept 
contained in their law of love to God and their neighbor was a precept of the 
eternal law. After the parables by which he explains his teaching to his 
disciples, Christ says, as if in reference to all that had preceded, 'Therefore 
every scribe (i.e. every man who can read and has been taught the truth) is 
like a householder who brings forth out of his treasure (indiscriminately) 
things old and new.' (Matthew 13:52) 

It is thus that St. Irenaus understands these words, and so does the Church, 
and yet, arbitrarily transgressing the true sense of the saying, they attribute 
to these words the meaning that the whole ancient law is sacred. The 
obvious meaning of the text is that he who seeks for what is good, takes not 
only what is new, but what is old too, and that its being old is not a sufficient 
reason for throwing it aside. Christ means, by this saying, that he does not 
deny what is eternal in the ancient law. But when questioned concerning the 
law or its forms, he says, 'We do not pour new wine into old bottles.' Christ 
could not confirm the whole law, neither could he completely deny the law 
and the prophets; he could neither deny the law that says, 'Love your 
neighbor as yourself,' nor the prophets, in whose word he often clothes his 



thought. 

And so, instead of our understanding these clear and simple words as they 
were said, and in the sense that the whole teaching of Christ confirms, an 
obscure interpretation is given to us, which introduces inconsistency where 
there is none, and thus destroys the true sense of the teaching, leaving 
nothing but words, and in reality re-establishing the Mosaic teaching with all 
its barbarous cruelty. 

According to the commentaries of the Church, and those of the fifth century 
in particular, Christ did not destroy the written law, but confirmed it. But we 
are not told how he confirmed it, or how the law of Christ and the Mosaic 
Law can be supposed to be united into one. We find nothing in these 
commentaries but a play upon words. We are told that Christ kept the 
Mosaic Law by the prophecies concerning himself being fulfilled; and that 
Christ fulfilled the law through us, through the faith of men in him. No effort 
is made to solve the only question that is of essential importance to every 
believer: how these two contradictory laws, referring to life, can be united 
into one. The inconsistency of the text, which says that Christ does not 
destroy the law, with the one in which we read, 'It has been said...but I say 
to you/ (indeed the contradiction between the whole spirit of the Mosaic 
Law and the teaching of Christ) remains in all its force. 

Let everyone who is interested in this question examine for himself the 
commentaries on this passage given to us by the Church, beginning from 
John Chrysostom to the present time. It is only after having read these that 
he will see clearly not only that no explanation of the contradiction is given, 
but also that a contradiction has been skillfully inserted where there was 
none before. The impossible attempts at uniting what cannot be united are 
clear proof that this was not an involuntary mental error, but was effected 
with some definite purpose in view; that it was found necessary; and the 
cause of its having been found necessary is obvious. 

Let us see what John Chrysostom says in answer to those who reject the 
Mosaic Law (Commentary of the gospel according to St. Matthew, vol. 1, pp. 
320, 321). 

'On examining the ancient law that enjoins us to take an eye for an eye and 



a tooth for a tooth, the objection is raised, 'How can he who speaks thus be 
righteous? What answer can we give?' Why, that it is, on the contrary, the 
best token of God's love toward man. It was not that we should really take 
an eye for an eye that he gave us this law, but that we should avoid 
wronging others for fear of suffering the same at their hands. As, for 
instance, when threatening the Ninevites with destruction, his desire was 
not to destroy them (had he indeed decreed their destruction he would not 
have spoken of it); his purpose was only, by his menaces, to induce them to 
amend their lives and, by so doing, turn his wrath aside. Thus likewise the 
hot-tempered, who are ready to put out their neighbors' eyes, are 
threatened with punishment for the sole purpose of making their fears of 
punishment restrain them from injuring their fellow-creatures. If this is 
cruelty, there is cruelty likewise in the commandment that forbids murder, 
or the one that interdicts adultery. But such an argument would only prove a 
man to have reached the last stage of madness. And I so dread calling these 
commandments cruel, that I should rather be inclined to consider a contrary 
law as wrong, according to plain common sense. You call God cruel because 
He has enjoined taking an eye for an eye; but I say that many would have 
had a greater right to call Him cruel, as you do, had He not given this 
commandment.' John Chrysostom plainly acknowledges the law of a tooth 
for a tooth to be the divine law, and the reverse of that law - i.e. Christ's 
teaching of non-resistance - to be wrong. Pages 322, 323: 'Let us suppose 
that the law is entirely cast aside,' says John Chrysostom further, 'that all 
fear of promised punishment is done away with, that the wicked are left to 
live according to their inclinations, without fear of punishment - adulterers, 
murderers, thieves, and perjurers. Wouldn't all be overthrown; wouldn't 
houses, marketplaces, cities, lands, seas, and the whole universe be full of 
iniquity? This is obvious. For if even the existence of laws, fear and threats of 
punishment, can hardly keep the evil intentioned with bounds, what would 
there then be to restrain men from evil deeds, if all obstacles were 
removed? What disasters would then rush in torrents into the lives of men! 
Cruelty lies not only in leaving the wicked free to act as they please, but in 
letting the innocent man suffer without defending him. If a man were to 
collect a crowd of miscreants around him, and having furnished them with 
weapons, were to send them forth into the town to kill all those they met in 



the streets, could anything be more barbarous? And, on the contrary, if 
another were to bind these armed men and imprison them, releasing the 
victims who these miscreants had threatened with death, could anything be 
more humane?' 

But John Chrysostom does not tell us by what the other is to be guided in his 
definition of the wicked. May he not himself be a wicked man, and imprison 
the good? 

'Now apply this example to the law. He who gave the commandment, "an 
eye for an eye" has bound the minds of the wicked in chains of fear, and 
may be compared to the man who bound the miscreants; but if no 
punishment were appointed for criminals, would it not be arming them with 
the weapons of fearlessness, and acting like him who gave weapons to the 
miscreants, and sent them forth into the town?' 

If John Chrysostom does acknowledge the teaching of Christ, he ought to 
have told us who is to take an 'eye for an eye,' or a 'tooth for a tooth,' and 
cast into prison. If He who gave the commandment, that is, God Himself, 
were to inflict the threatened punishment, there would be no inconsistency; 
but it must be done by men, the men who were forbidden to do so by the 
Son of God. God said, 'An eye of an eye.' The Son says, 'Do not act thus.' 

One of the two commandments must be acknowledged as just. John 
Chrysostom and the Church follow the commandments of the Father - i.e., 
the Mosaic Law - and reject the commandments of the Son, while ostensibly 
professing His teaching. 

Christ rejects the Mosaic Law, and gives his own instead. For him who 
believes Christ there is no contradiction. He pays no heed to the Mosaic 
Law, believes in Christ's teaching, and fulfills it. Neither is there any 
contradiction for him who believes in the Mosaic Law. The Hebrews do not 
consider the words of Christ valid, and they believe in the Mosaic Law. There 
is a contradiction only for those who, while choosing to live according to the 
Mosaic Law, try to persuade themselves and others that they believe in the 
teaching of the Christ; only for those whom Christ calls, 'You hypocrites, you 
generation of vipers.' 

Instead of acknowledging one of the two - either the Mosaic Law or the 



teaching of Christ - we say that both are divine truths. 

But no sooner does the question touch upon life itself, than the teaching of 
Christ is straightway cast aside, and the Mosaic Law is acknowledged. 

It is in this false interpretation, once we examine it closely, is the awful 
drama of battle between good and evil, light and darkness. 

Christ appears amidst the Hebrews, who were entangled in countless 
minute rules, laid down by their Levites, and called by them the divine law, 
each of which was preceded by the words, 'And God said to Moses/ Not 
only the relations in which man stands to God, but the sacrifices, feast days, 
fasts, the relations between men - public, civil, and family relations - all the 
details of private life, circumcision, ablution of themselves and their cups, 
their clothes, all - even in the most trifling details - were encompassed by 
rules, and these were acknowledged as the commandments of God, the law 
of God. What could a prophet do - I do not say Christ-God - but what could 
a prophet, a teacher do, when teaching such a people, without first 
destroying the obligations of a law by which everything, down to the 
smallest detail of life, was thus regulated? Christ does what any other 
prophet would do. He takes from the old law, considered by the people as 
divine, what is truly the law of God. He takes the basic principles, setting all 
the rest aside, and he adds to it his own revelation of the eternal law. 
Though all need not be cast aside, a law that is considered obligatory in all 
its minutest details must inevitably be violated. This is what Christ does, and 
he is accused of destroying the law of God; and he is crucified for this. But 
his teaching remains among his disciples, and passes on to other peoples. 
Yet, in the course of ages, and among the new peoples who receive Christ's 
truth, the same human interpretations and explanations shoot up. Again the 
shallow precepts of man appear in place of the divine revelation. Instead of 
the words, 'And God said to Moses/ we now read, 'By the revelation of the 
Holy Spirit.' Again the letter rather than the spirit of the teaching is 
preferred. It is a striking fact that the teaching of Christ is united to all this 
'tora/ which he rejected. This 'tora' is said to be the revelation of the Spirit 
of Truth - i.e., of the Holy Ghost - and so Christ is taken in the meshes of his 
own revelation. And his whole teaching is reduced to nothing. 

That is why now, after 1800 years, the strange duty has fallen to my lot to 



discover the sense of Christ's teaching as something new. 

I did not have to re-open it, but I had to do what all those who seek to know 
God and His law have to do: to find out the eternal law of God from amidst 
the precepts that men call His law. 



Chapter 6 

Now I understood the Christ's law as the Christ's law, and not the mixed Law 
of Moses and Christ. The claim of his teaching clearly repudiates the claim of 
the Mosaic Law; and, consequently, instead of the obscurity, diffuseness, 
and inconsistency that I had previously found in the gospels, they now 
combine to form an indissoluble whole; and the basis, or central maxim, of 
the entire teaching is expressed in the simple, clear, and perfectly intelligible 
five commandments of Christ (Matt. 5:21-48), which I had hitherto failed to 
apprehend. 

Mention is made in all the gospels of the 'commandments of Christ,' and 
their fulfillment is enjoined. 

All theologians speak of the commandments of Christ, but I never knew 
what these commandments were. I supposed the commandment of Christ 
to be the exhortation to love God, and our neighbor as ourselves. I did not 
see that this could not be the commandment of Christ, seeing that it was a 
commandment given to the ancient Hebrews (see Deuteronomy and 
Leviticus). On reading the words, 'Whoever, therefore, shall break one of 
these commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in 
the kingdom of heaven; but whoever shall do and teach them, the same 
shall be great in the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:19),' I thought they referred 
to the Mosaic Law. It never occurred to me that the new commandments of 
Christ were clearly and distinctly expressed in verses 21-48 of the fifth 
chapter of St. Matthew. Nor did I notice that by the words, 'You have heard 
that is has been said...but I say to you,' Christ gives us new and most definite 
commandments; annexed to the five quotations of the Mosaic Law 
(reckoning the two quotations that refer to adultery as one), we find five 
new and definite commandments of Christ. 

I had often heard about the Beatitudes, and had met with the enumeration 
and explanation of them in the course of the religious instruction given to 
me in my youth; but I never heard a word about the commandments of 
Christ. To my great surprise I had to discover them. 

I shall now point out what led me to the discovery. In Matt. 5:21-26, we 
read, 'You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, "You shall not 


kill; and whoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment." (Exodus 
20:23) But I say to you, that whoever is angry with his brother without a 
cause shall be in danger of the judgment; and whoever shall say to his 
brother, raca, shall be in danger of the judgment; but whoever shall say, 

"You fool!" shall be in danger of hell-fire. Therefore, if you bring your gift to 
the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you; 
leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to 
your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Agree with your adversary 
quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest at any time the adversary 
deliver you to the judge, and the judge deliver you to the officer, and you be 
cast into prison. Truly I say to you, you shall by no means come out from 
there until you have paid the last kopeck.' 

On a clear comprehension of the teaching of 'non-resistance,' it seemed to 
me that the text quoted above must have the same application to life as that 
teaching. I had formerly considered these words as meaning that we were to 
avoid all anger against a fellow-creature, that we were never to use abusive 
language, and that we were to live at peace with all, not excepting any; but 
there stood a clause in the text which excluded all possibility of thus 
understanding it. It is said, 'whoever is angry with his brother without a 
cause,' and the idea of unconditional peace is annulled by the last, italicized 
words. They puzzled me. I sought for a solution of my doubts in theological 
commentaries; but to my surprise I found that the interpretation of the 
Fathers of the Church were especially directed toward defining the cases in 
which anger may be excused and cannot be excused. Laying particular stress 
on the words 'without a cause,' commentators tell us the meaning of the 
text is that we are never to wound a man's feelings causelessly, nor use 
abusive language; but add that anger is not always unjust, and in support of 
that opinion they cite instances of the anger of the apostles and the saints. 

I was obliged to acknowledge that, though contrary to the whole spirit of the 
gospel, the interpretation of the Fathers, by which anger is accounted 
justifiable when, to use their own expression, it is to the glory of God,' was 
consistent, being based on the words 'without a cause,' which we find in 
verse 22. This clause entirely altered the sense of the saying. 

Do not be angry without a cause. Christ exhorts us to forgive all, to forgive 



without end; Christ himself forgave, and when led away to be crucified, 
reproved Peter for defending him against Malchus; and yet it would seem 
that Peter had good cause for anger. And the same Christ exhorts all men 
not to be angry without a cause, thus justifying anger if there is a reason for 
it, if it is not causeless! Isn't it as if Christ, who came to preach peace to all 
simple-minded men, had, on second thoughts, added the words 'without a 
cause' to show that this precept did not apply to all cases indiscriminately - 
that anger might sometimes be justifiable? Commentators tell us that anger 
may be justifiable. 'But,' I said to myself, 'can any man be a fit judge of the 
reasonableness of his anger? Never yet have I seen an angry man who did 
not consider himself perfectly just in his anger. Each thinks his anger both 
lawful and necessary.' The words 'without a cause' seemed entirely to 
destroy the meaning of the text. But they were in the gospel, and I could not 
set them aside. And yet it came to much the same as if, to the saying 'Love 
your neighbor,' were added the words 'your neighbor who pleases you.' The 
words 'without a cause' destroyed the significance of the whole text for me. 

Verses 23 and 24, in which we read that before praying we must be at peace 
with him who has something against us, which would have had a direct, 
obligatory sense without the words 'without a cause,' now acquired a 
conditional meaning. 

It seemed to me that Christ must have meant to forbid all anger, all ill-will, 
and in order to suppress it, had enjoined each person, before he brings his 
gift to the altar - i.e., before he draws near to God - to think upon whether 
there is any man who is angry with him. And if there is someone, he must be 
reconciled to him first, and then he may bring his gift to the altar or pray. It 
seemed thus to me, but, according to all commentaries, the sense of the 
passage was conditional. 

In all commentaries we are told that we must try to be at peace with all 
men; but if that is impossible, on account of the perversity of our adversary, 
we must be at peace with him in mind, in our thoughts, and then his enmity 
will be no barrier to our prayer. Moreover, the words that declare that 
whoever shall say 'raca,' or 'you fool,' commits a great sin, always seemed 
most strange and unintelligible to me. If the words forbid abusive language, 
why are such weak epithets chosen, which can hardly be reckoned terms of 



abuse? And why was there so awful a threat against one who might, 
perhaps inadvertently, use as inoffensive a word as raca - i.e., a worthless 
fellow? This seemed incomprehensible to me. 

I felt sure that there was the same misunderstanding here as I had found in 
the words 'do not judge/ I felt sure that a simple, definite, and highly 
important commandment, which all have it in their power to fulfill, had been 
perverted, as in the preceding instance, into something almost 
incomprehensible. I felt sure that Christ had not used the words, 'be 
reconciled to your brother/ in the sense now given to them by our 
commentators: 'be reconciled to your brother in mind.' Reconciled in mind! 
What can that mean? I thought that Christ meant exactly what he expressed 
in the words of the prophet, 'I will have mercy' - i.e., love to all men - 'and 
not sacrifice.' And therefore, if you wish to find favor in God's sight, before 
repeating your morning and evening prayer, or before attending public 
worship, reflect whether anyone is angry with you; and if such a one can be 
found, go and be reconciled to him first, and then you may come and pray. 
Let your reconciliation no be 'in mind' only. I saw that the interpretation, 
which destroyed the direct and clear meaning of the text, was based on the 
words 'without a cause.' Their omission would render the whole perfectly 
clear; but the canonical gospel, in which stand the words 'without a cause,' 
and all commentaries upon it, were contrary to my interpretation. 

Had I chosen arbitrarily to alter the sense of this passage, I might have done 
so with any other text as well; and might not other interpreters have done 
so too? All the difficulty lay in one little clause. If this clause were removed, 
all would be clear. So I endeavored to find some philological explanation of 
the words that should not destroy the sense of the text. 

On consulting the dictionary, I saw the Greek word is eixn, and that it 
likewise means 'purposelessly, thoughtlessly.' I again read the text over 
attentively, to see if any other meaning could be given to it, but found that 
the clause was evidently correct. I consulted the Greek dictionary, and the 
meaning given to the word was the same. I consulted the context, but the 
word is only used once in the gospels: in the passage in question. We find it 
several times in the epistles. In the first epistle to the Corinthians (15:2) it is 
used in the same sense. Therefore, there seemed to be no other possible 



rendering of the text, and I found myself obliged to believe that Christ said, 
'Do not be angry without a cause.' I must confess that, to believe in Christ's 
having uttered so indefinite a saying - which admits of an interpretation that 
reduces it to a mere nothing - seemed to me equivalent to an entire 
renunciation of the gospel itself. A last hope was left to me: was this clause 
to be found in all the transcripts of the gospel? I examined various 
translations. I looked in Griesbach's edition of the gospels, in which he 
enumerates all the transcripts in which a similar expression is used; and I 
found, to my great joy, that there were several references attached to this 
particular text. I examined them, and found that they referred to the very 
words, 'without a cause.' In the greater number of the transcripts of the 
gospel, and in the commentaries of the Fathers of the Church, these words 
are omitted. Thus, the majority understood the text as I do. I then consulted 
the first transcript of Tischendorf, but the words are not there. The shortest 
way to solve the problem would have been to look in Luther's translation of 
the gospel; but the words are not to be found there either. 

The clause, which so entirely destroys the sense of Christ's teaching, was an 
addition made in the fifth century, and it is not to be found in any of the 
most trustworthy transcripts of the gospel. 

Someone had inserted the clause, and others had approved of it, and then 
tried to explain it. 

Christ never could have added so monstrous a clause; and the simple, direct 
meaning of the text, which had first struck me, and must strike others, is the 
true one. 

Nor is this all; for, no sooner did I understand that Christ's words forbade 
anger against any person whatever, than the command not to call a fellow- 
creature 'raca,' or 'you fool,' struck me in a new light, and I could no longer 
consider it as being intended to forbid the use of abusive language. The 
untranslated word raca opened my eyes to the true sense. The word raca 
means 'trampled upon, set at naught, made of no account.' The word rac is 
a word very generally used, and it signifies 'excepting,' 'only not.' Raca, 
therefore, means a man unworthy of the title of man. We find the plural, 
rakim, used in the Book of Judges (9:4) in the sense of 'lost.' So this is the 
word we are forbidden by Christ to use in speaking of a fellow-creature. In 



the same manner he forbids our saying 'you fool/ words by which we may 
consider ourselves justified in setting aside our duty toward our neighbor. 
We give way to anger, wrong others, and allege for our justification that the 
man who has excited our anger is a lost man or a fool. And these are the 
epithets that we are forbidden by Christ to apply to any man. He forbids our 
giving way to anger against our fellow-creatures; he forbids our justifying 
our anger by calling its object a lost man or a fool. 

And now, in the place of an indistinct, indefinite, and insignificant 
expression, subject to countless arbitrary interpretations, the first simple, 
clear, and distinct commandment of Christ arose before me, as contained in 
verses 21-26: 'Be at peace with all men, and never consider your anger as 
just. Never look upon any man as worthless or a fool, neither call him such. 
Not only shall you never think yourself justified in your anger, but also you 
shall never consider your brother's anger as causeless; and therefore, if 
there is one who is angry with you, even if it is without a cause, go and be 
reconciled to him before praying. Endeavor to destroy all enmity between 
yourself and others, that their enmity may not grow and destroy you.' 

And now the second commandment of Christ, which also begins with a 
reference to the ancient law, grew clear to me also. Matthew 5:27-32: 'You 
have heard that it was said to the people long ago, "You shall not commit 
adultery." (Exodus 20:14-28) But I say to you that whoever looks on a 
woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his 
heart. And if your right eye offends you, pluck it out and cast it from you; for 
it is profitable for you that one of your members should perish, and not that 
your whole body should be cast into hell. And if your right hand offends you, 
cut it off and cast it from you; for it is profitable for you that one of your 
members should perish, and not that your whole body should be cast into 
hell. It has been said, "Whoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a 
writing of divorcement." (Deuteronomy 24:1) But I say to you that whoever 
shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causes her to 
commit adultery; and whoever shall marry a divorced woman commits 
adultery.' 

I understood these words to signify that no man must ever admit, even in 
thought, the possibility of leaving the woman he was first united to for 



another, a thing that is permitted by the Mosaic Law. 

As in his first commandment against anger, we are advised to stifle the 
feeling in its birth - the advice being further exemplified by the comparison 
of the man delivered up to the judge - so here Christ says that fornication is 
the consequence of men and women looking at each other as objects of 
sexual lust; and, to avoid this, we must set aside all that can excite sexual 
lust; and, when once united to a woman, we must never leave her, under 
any pretext whatever, because this opens the door to sinful indulgence. 

I was struck by the wisdom of the saying. It tends to do away with all the 
evils resulting from sexual relations. Men and women are to avoid all that 
can excite sensuality, being fully aware that nothing is more conducive to 
dissensions in the world than carnal pleasures, and knowing also that the 
law of nature is that the race should live together in couples, united in bonds 
that cannot be dissolved. In the Sermon on the Mount the words, 'saving for 
the cause of fornication/ which had always seemed strange to me, struck 
me still more forcibly when I saw that they were considered as permitting 
divorce if the wife had committed adultery. 

Besides there being something unworthy in the very way the idea is 
expressed, and in this strange exception standing side by side with the most 
important principles that the sermon contained - like a regulation in some 
code - the exception itself was in direct opposition to the fundamental idea 
of Christ's teaching. 

I consulted the commentators of the gospels, and all of them (John 
Chrysostom, page 365), and even theological critics like Reuss, affirm that 
these words mean that Christ permits divorce if the wife has committed 
adultery; that in Christ's prohibition of divorce, in Matthew 19:9, where we 
read 'saving for the cause of fornication/ the words have that meaning. I 
read the thirty-second verse over and over again, and came to the 
conclusion that this interpretation of the words was erroneous. In order to 
verify my opinion, I examined the context, and found, earlier in the chapter 
19 of the gospel according to St. Matthew, in Mark 10, in Luke 16, and in the 
first epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, a similar declaration of the 
indissolubility of the marriage tie, without exception of any kind. 



In the gospel according to St. Luke 16:18, we read, 'Whoever puts away his 
wife, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries a 
woman who is put away from her husband commits adultery.' 

In the gospel according to St. Mark 10:4-12, we read, Tor the hardness of 
your heart he wrote you this precept. But from the beginning of the creation 
God made them male and female. For this cause a man shall leave his father 
and mother, and cleave to his wife; and the two of them shall be one flesh; 
so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has 
joined together, do not let man put asunder.' And in the house His disciples 
asked Him again of the same matter. And he said to them, 'Whoever shall 
put away his wife, and marry another, commits adultery against her. And if a 
woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she 
commits adultery.' 

We find the same teaching in the gospel according to St. Matthew 19:4-8. 

In the epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, 7:1-12, the statement that depravity 
may be prevented by husbands and wives never forsaking each other, nor 
defrauding each other for their rights, is enlarged upon; and it is distinctly 
said that neither shall the husband in any case forsake his wife for another 
woman, nor the wife leave her husband for another man. 

Thus we see that, according to the gospels of Mark and Luke and the epistle 
of Paul, divorce is wholly forbidden. According to the interpretation that 
husband and wife are one flesh, joined together by God, which we find 
repeated in two of the gospels, divorce is forbidden. According to the sense 
of the whole teaching of Christ, who exhorts us to forgive all, not excluding 
the wife who has gone astray, it is forbidden. According to the sense of the 
whole text, which clearly points out that a man's leaving his wife brings 
depravity into the world, it is forbidden. 

From where, then, is the conclusion drawn that a wife who has committed 
adultery may be divorced, and on what is it grounded? It is grounded on the 
very words of Matthew 5:32, which had so strangely struck me. It is alleged 
that these words prove that Christ permits divorce if the wife has committed 
adultery; and they are also repeated in the nineteenth chapter in numerous 
transcripts of the gospel, and by many of the Fathers of the Church, instead 



of the words, 'except it be for fornication.' 

I read the words over and over again, and it was long before I could 
understand them. I saw that there was probably something incorrect in the 
translation and interpretation, but could not for some time make out what it 
was. That there was a mistake was obvious. Placing his commandment in 
opposition to that of the Mosaic Law, which says that if a man hates his wife 
he may put her away, giving her a writing of divorcement, Christ says, 'But I 
say to you, that whoever puts away his wife, saving for the cause of 
fornication, causes her to commit adultery.' There is no opposition in these 
words, and no mention made of the possibility or impossibility of divorce. 
We are only told that he who puts away his wife causes her to commit 
adultery. And then comes a clause that excepts the wife guilty of adultery. 
This exception is altogether strange and unexpected; it is indeed absurd, as 
it destroys even the dubious sense of the words. It is stated that the putting 
away of a wife causes her to commit adultery, and then the husband is 
exhorted to put away his wife if she is guilty of adultery; as if the wife who 
was guilty of adultery would not commit adultery! 

Moreover, on a closer examination of the text, I saw that it was even 
grammatically incorrect. It is said, 'Whoever puts away his wife, saving for 
the cause of fornication, causes her to commit adultery,' or, if we translate 
the word napeijiToq literally, 'besides fornication, causes her to commit 
adultery.' The words refer to the husband who causes his wife to commit 
adultery by putting her away. Then why is the clause 'cause of fornication' 
inserted? If it were said that the husband who puts away his wife, besides 
being guilty of fornication, commits adultery, the sentence would be 
grammatically correct. But as the text stands, the noun 'husband' has one 
predicate - 'causes her,' etc. - and how does the phrase 'saving for the 
cause of fornication' refer to it? 'Cannot cause her to commit adultery, 
saving for the cause of adultery?' Even if the words 'wife' or 'her' were 
added to the phrase 'saving for the cause of adultery', which is not the case, 
the words could have no reference to the predicate 'causes her.' According 
to the accepted interpretation, these words are considered as referring to 
the predicate 'puts away,' but the verb 'puts away' is not the predicate of 
the principal sentence, for that is 'causes to commit adultery.' Therefore, for 
what purpose are the words 'saving for (or besides) the cause of fornication' 



inserted? Whether the wife is guilty of adultery or not, by putting her away 
the husband causes her to commit that sin. 

The meaning of this sentence is similar to 'whoever deprives his son of food, 
except for the guilt of ruthlessness, gives him a reason to be ruthless'. This 
expression obviously cannot mean that the father can deprive his son of 
food if his son is ruthless. It can only mean that the father who deprives his 
son of food, beside his ruthlessness, also teaches his son to be ruthless. In 
the same way, the sentence would have a meaning if in the place of the 
word 'fornication' we found the words 'lasciviousness,' 'debauchery,' or 
some similar word expressing, not an action, but a character trait. 

'Doesn't it mean,' I said to myself, 'that he who divorces his wife causes her 
to commit adultery, and is besides guilty of debauchery himself?' (For if a 
man divorces his wife, it is in order to take to himself some other woman.) If 
the word used in the text is found to mean 'debauchery,' then the sense will 
be clear. 

And again, as in the preceding instances, the text confirmed my surmise in a 
manner that left no room for doubt. 

What first struck me on reading the text was that the word nopveia, which 
is, in all translations except the English, rendered as 'adultery' in the same 
way as poixaotfai, is, in reality, quite another word. Perhaps the two words 
are synonymous, or are used in the gospel in the same sense, I thought. So I 
referred both to the common dictionary and to the evangelical glossaries, 
and found that the word nopveia, which is equivalent to the Hebrew ' zono' 
the Latin ' fornicatio,' the German ' Hurerei,' the Russian 'pacnyrcrBo' 
(lewdness), has its own definite meaning, and in no dictionary is it 
considered as signifying adultery;' adultere,'' Ehebruch,' as it has been 
translated by Luther. It properly implies a depraved state or disposition, and 
not an action, and cannot therefore be translated by the word 'adultery.' 
Moreover, I saw that the word 'adultery' is always expressed in the gospel, 
and even in the above-named verses, by another word, poixeco. And no 
sooner had I corrected this evidently intentional perversion of the text than I 
saw that the sense given to the context of the nineteenth chapter, and by 
our commentators, was altogether impossible; I saw that there could be no 
doubt about the word nopveia referring only to the husband. 



Every Greek scholar will construe the passage thus: riapexioc; (besides) 
Aoyou (the matter) nopvELOtc; (of lewdness) kolel (causes) auxr|v (her) 
poixaoOai (to commit adultery). Therefore, the text stands word for word 
thus: 'He who divorces his wife, besides the sin of lewdness, causes her to 
commit adultery.' 

We find exactly the same in the nineteenth chapter. No sooner is the 
incorrect translation of the word nopveia amended, as well as that of the 
preposition etti, which has been translated 'for'; no sooner is the word 
'lewdness' placed instead of 'adultery,' and the preposition 'by' instead of 
'for'; than it grows perfectly clear that the words el pr| ekl nopvsia can have 
no reference to the wife. And as the words napexioc; Aoyou nopvsiac; can 
have no other meaning than 'besides the sin of lewdness of the husband,' so 
the words el pr| ekl KopvELa, which we find in the nineteenth chapter, can 
have no reference to anything except the lewdness of the husband. It is said, 
el pr| ekl KopvsLot, which, being translated literally, is, 'if not by lewdness,' 'if 
not out of lewdness.' And thus the meaning is clear that Christ in this 
passage refutes the notion of the Pharisees that a man who put away his 
wife, not out of lewdness, but in order to live matrimonially with another 
woman, did not commit adultery; Christ says that the repudiation of a wife, 
even if it is not done out of lewdness, but in order to be joined in bonds of 
matrimony to another woman, is adultery. And thus the sense is simple, 
clear, perfectly consistent with the whole teaching, and both logically and 
grammatically correct. 

It was with the greatest difficulty that I at last discovered this clear and 
simple meaning of the words themselves, and their harmony with the whole 
teaching of Christ. And, in truth, read the words in the German or French 
versions, where it is said, 'pour cause d'infidelite,' or' a moins que cela ne 
soit pour cause d'infidelite,' and you will hardly be able to guess that the 
text has quite another meaning. The word napexioq, which according to all 
dictionaries means 'excepte,' 'ausgenommen,' is translated in the French by 
a whole sentence, 'a moins que cela ne soit.' The word kopvelol is translated 
'infidelite,' 'Ehebruch,' 'adultery.' And on this intentional perversion of the 
text is based an interpretation that destroys the moral, religious, 
grammatical, and logical sense of Christ's words. 



And once more I received a confirmation of the truth that the meaning of 
Christ's teaching is simple and clear. His commandments are definite, and of 
the highest practical importance; but the interpretations given to us, based 
on a desire to justify existing evils, have so obscured his teaching that we 
can with difficulty fathom its meaning. I felt convinced that had the gospel 
been found half burnt or half obliterated, it would have been easier to 
discover its true meaning than it is now; that it has suffered from such 
unconscientious interpretations, which have purposely concealed or 
distorted its true sense. In this last instance the special object of justifying 
the divorce of some Ivan the Terrible, which thus led to the 
misrepresentation of the Christian teaching of matrimony, is more obvious 
than in the preceding cases to which reference has been made. 

No sooner are all these interpretations thrown aside than vagueness and 
mistiness fade away, and the second commandment of Christ rises plainly 
before us: Take no pleasure in concupiscence; let each man, if he is not a 
eunuch, have a wife, and each woman a husband; let a man have but one 
wife, and a woman one husband, and let them never under any pretext 
whatever dissolve their union.' 

Immediately after the second commandment we find a new reference to the 
ancient law, and the third commandment is given. Matthew 5:33-37: 'Again, 
you have heard that it has been said to the people long ago, you shall not 
swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord your oaths (Leviticus 19:12; 
Deuteronomy 23:21). But I say to you, do not swear at all; neither by 
heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; neither 
by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Neither shall you swear by 
your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your 
word be yes, yes, or no, no; for whatever is more than these comes from 
evil.' 

In my former readings of the gospel this text had always puzzled me. Not by 
its obscurity, as the text referring to divorce did; nor by its inconsistency 
with other passages, as did the text that forbids anger only if it is 'without a 
cause'; nor, again, by the difficulty of fulfilling the commandment, like the 
text that enjoins our letting ourselves be struck. It puzzled me, on the 
contrary, by its evident clarity and simplicity. Side by side with precepts, the 



depth and importance of which filled me with awe, I found an apparently 
useless, insignificant precept, very easy of fulfillment, and comparatively 
unimportant in its bearing upon myself or upon others. I had never sworn by 
Jerusalem, or by God, or by anything; and had never found any difficulty in 
abstaining from doing so; besides, it seemed to me that my swearing or not 
swearing could be of no importance to anyone. And longing to find some 
explanation of a precept that puzzled me by its simplicity, I consulted the 
commentaries on the gospel. This once they helped me. 

Commentators see in these words a confirmation of the third 
commandment of Moses, not to swear by God's name. They say that Christ, 
like Moses, forbids our taking God's name in vain. But they add besides that 
this precept given to us by Christ is not always obligatory, and that in no 
case does it refer to the oath of allegiance to the existing powers, which 
every citizen is obliged to take. They choose out texts from Holy Scripture, 
not with the purpose of confirming the direct meaning of Christ's precept, 
but in order to prove that it is possible and even necessary to leave it 
unfulfilled. 

It is affirmed that Christ Himself sanctioned the taking of an oath in courts of 
law by his answer, 'You have said,' to the High Priest's words, 'I charge you 
under oath by the living God.' It is likewise affirmed that the apostle Paul 
called upon God to bear witness to the truth of his words, and that this was 
obviously an oath. It is affirmed that the Mosaic Law enjoined oaths, and 
that Christ did not abrogate them, and only set useless, pharisaically 
hypocritical oaths aside. 

And when I saw the meaning and the true object of the interpretation, it 
grew clear to me that Christ's law against swearing was not as insignificant 
and easy of fulfillment as I had thought before I had come to regard the 
'oath of allegiance' as one of those that are forbidden by Christ. 

And I said to myself, 'Doesn't it mean that the oath, which is so carefully 
fenced round by the Church commentaries, is also forbidden? Don't Christ's 
words oppose the very oath without which the division of men into separate 
governments would be an impossibility - the oath without which a military 
class would be impossible?' Soldiers are those who act by violence and they 
call themselves 'sworn men' (npucfira). Had I asked the grenadier I 



mentioned in a preceding chapter how he solved the problem of the 
inconsistency between the gospel and the military code, he would have 
answered that he had taken an oath, i.e., sworn upon the gospel. All the 
military men I ever asked answered thus. Oaths are so essential in upholding 
the awful evils brought about by war and violence that in France, where 
Christ's teaching is entirely set aside, the oath of allegiance remains in full 
force. Indeed, had Christ not said, 'Do not swear at all/ he ought to have 
said so. He came to destroy evil, and how great is the evil brought about in 
the world by the taking of oaths! Perhaps some may urge that this was an 
imperceptible evil in Christ's time. No assumption can be more gratuitous. 
Epictetus and Seneca enjoined all men to take no oaths. In the laws of 
Manou the same precept may be found. Why should I say that Christ did not 
see this evil, when he speaks of it so definitely and so forcibly? 

He says, 'I say to you, do not swear at all.' The saying is as clear, as simple, 
and as indubitable as the words, 'do not judge, do not condemn,' and it 
gives as little scope for false interpretation, the less so because the words 
'Let your communication be yes, yes, or no, no; for whatever is more than 
these comes from evil,' are added. 

Now if Christ by this teaching exhorts us always to fulfill the will of God, how 
dare a man swear to obey the will of another man? The will of God may not 
always coincide with the will of man. Christ tells us so in this very text. He 
says (verse 36), 'Do not swear by your head, for not only your head but 
every hair on it is subject to the will of God.' 

We find the same thing taught in the epistle of James, who says (chapter 5, 
verse 12), 'But above all things, my brethren, do not swear, neither by 
heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath; but let your yes be 
yes, and your no be no, lest you fall into condemnation.' The apostle tells us 
why we are not to swear. Though the taking of an oath may be no sin in 
itself, he who swears falls into condemnation, and therefore shall no man 
swear. Can any language be clearer than the words of Christ and of this 
apostle? 

But my ideas on this point were in so confused a state that for some time I 
went on asking myself, with surprise, 'Does the precept really mean this? 
How is it that all swear by the gospel? It cannot be.' 



But I had read the commentaries on the gospel, and saw that what I deemed 
impossible had, nevertheless, been done. The same remark has to be made 
in reference to this as to the texts, 'Do not judge/ 'Do not give way to 
anger/ 'Never break the union of husband and wife.' We have set up our 
own institutions; we love them, and choose to consider them sacred. Christ, 
whom we acknowledge to be God, comes, and he says that our rules of life 
are bad. We acknowledge him to be God, yet we do not choose to set our 
rules of life aside. What is left then for us to do? When, by inserting the 
words 'without a cause,' we turn the commandment against anger into a 
meaningless sentence; when, like crafty lawyers, we interpret the sense of 
the commandment in a manner that gives it a contrary meaning to that 
designed by him who spoke it, as we do if, instead of prohibiting altogether 
the putting away of a wife, we declare divorce to be lawful and just, we put 
our institutions in the place of truth. But if it is impossible to interpret the 
words otherwise than as I have indicated, in the treatment of the precepts 
'Do not judge,' 'Do not condemn,' 'Do not swear at all,' then we boldly act in 
direct opposition to Christ's teaching, while asserting that we strictly fulfill it, 
if we cleave to traditional interpretations. The chief obstacle to our 
understanding that the gospel wholly forbids our taking an oath is that the 
so-called Christian teachers boldly insist upon men's taking oaths upon the 
gospel; and in this acting contrary to the gospel. 

How can it come into the head of a man who is made to take an oath on the 
gospel, or the crucifix, that that crucifix is sacred for the very reason that He 
who forbade our swearing was crucified upon it? He who takes the oath 
perhaps kisses the very passage that so clearly and definitely says, 'Do not 
swear at all.' 

But such boldness no longer confounded me. I clearly saw that in the fifth 
chapter, verses 33-37, lay the third definite and practicable commandment 
of Christ, which may be stated: 'Never take an oath under any 
circumstances. Every oath is extorted from men for evil.' 

After this third commandment stands a fourth reference to the Mosaic Law, 
and then the fourth commandment is presented. Matthew 5:38-42: 'You 
have heard that it has been said, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. 
But I say to you, do not resist evil; but whoever shall strike you on your right 



cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue you at law, and 
take away your coat, let him have your cloak also. And whoever shall compel 
you to go a mile, go two miles with him. Give to him who asks you, and from 
him who would borrow from you do not turn away.' 

I have already spoken of the direct meaning of these words, and of our 
having no foundation whatever for interpreting them otherwise. The various 
commentaries upon them, from John Chrysostom to the present time, are 
truly surprising. We all admire the words, and each one tries to find some 
profound hidden meaning in them; but we usually fail to see that they mean 
exactly what they express. Ecclesiastical commentators, unmindful of the 
authority of him who they acknowledge as God, unhesitatingly limit the 
meaning of his words. They say, 'It is clearly understood that the precepts of 
long-suffering non-retaliation, being especially directed against the 
vindictiveness of the Jews, do not exclude either the right of setting limits to 
the progress of evil by the punishment of evil-doers, or private, individual 
endeavors to uphold the inviolability of truth, to amend the wicked, or to 
deprive evil-doers of the possibility of injuring others; the divine 
commandments of the Savior would otherwise be reduced to mere words, 
and would lead only to the progress of evil and the repression of virtue. The 
Christian's love should be like God's love; but since God's love limits and 
punishes evil only in proportion as it is more or less necessary for the glory 
of God or the salvation of our brethren, so is it the duty of those in authority 
to limit the progress of evil by punishments' (Exposition of the Gospel, by 
the Archim. Michael, based on the Commentaries of the Fathers of the 
Church). 

Neither do learned and free-thinking Christians scruple to correct the sense 
of Christ's words. They affirm that his sayings are sublime, but impracticable; 
that the application of the precept of non-resistance would destroy the 
whole organization of life, which we have set up so well; such is the opinion 
of Renan, Strauss, and other free-thinking commentators. 

Yet if we treat the words of Christ in the same way that we do the words of 
any man who may chance to speak to us, i.e., if we suppose that he says 
what he means, all profound interpretations will became unnecessary. Christ 
says, 'I find that the way you have regulated your lives is both foolish and 



bad. I propose another way.' And then he gives us his precepts in verses 38- 
42. Doesn't it seem right that, before correcting these words, they should at 
least be understood? And this is just what none of us choose to do. We 
decide beforehand that the present organization of our lives, which his 
words tend to destroy, is the sacred law of mankind. 

I had not considered our way of living as either good or sacred, and 
therefore I came to understand this commandment before I did the others. 
And when I understood these words exactly in the sense in which they were 
uttered, I was struck by their truth, clarity, and force. Christ says, 'You think 
to destroy evil by evil. That is irrational. In order that there should be no evil, 
do no evil.' And then, after enumerating all that is evil in our social 
adjustments, Christ exhorts us to act otherwise. 

The fourth commandment, I have said, was the one that I understood first, 
and it opened up to me the true meaning of all the rest. The fourth clear, 
simple commandment, which it is within the power of all to obey, says, 
'Never resist evil by violence; never return violence for violence. If anyone 
strikes you, bear it; if anyone takes away what is yours, let him have it; if 
anyone makes you labor, do so; if anyone wants to have what you consider 
to be your own, give it up to him.' 

And after this fourth commandment stands a fifth reference to the Mosaic 
Law, and the fifth commandment. Matthew 5:43-48: 'You have heard that it 
has been said, "You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy (Leviticus 
19:17-18)." But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, 
do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who despitefully use you 
and persecute you, that you may be the children of your Father who is in 
heaven; for He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends 
rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what 
reward do you have? Don't even the publicans do the same? And if you 
salute your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Don't even the 
heathens do so? Therefore be perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven 
is perfect.' 

I had formerly considered these words as explaining, amplifying, and giving 
more emphasis to, even exaggerating, the teaching of non-resistance. But 
having already found the simple, definite, and applicable sense of each of 



the preceding texts, which begin with a reference to the ancient law, I had a 
sense that I should find some fresh meaning here also. I had observed that a 
commandment was annexed to each reference to the ancient law, and that 
each verse of the commandment had its own significance, and could not be 
turned aside; and I was sure that would prove to be the fact here also. The 
last words that we repeated in the gospel according to St. Luke say that, as 
God makes no distinction between men, but pours down His blessings upon 
all, so should we be like our Father in heaven and make no distinction 
between men; not acting as the heathen do, but loving all men, and doing 
good to all. These words were very clear; they seemed to me an explanation 
and commendation to some clearly defined precept, but what that precept 
precisely was I could not for a long time make out. 

'Love one's enemy.' That sounded like something impossible. It was one of 
those beautiful utterances that cannot be considered otherwise than as 
presenting an unattainable moral ideal. It was either too much or it meant 
nothing. We may avoid wronging our enemy, but to love him is impossible. 
Christ cannot have commanded what we cannot fulfill. Moreover, the very 
first words in reference to the ancient law, 'It has been said, Hate your 
enemy,' were dubious. In the preceding passages Christ quotes the exact, 
authentic words of the Mosaic Law; but in this one he cites words that were 
never used. He seems to knowingly make a false statement about the 
ancient law. 

The various commentaries on the gospel, which I consulted, helped me no 
more than they had done in my former doubts. All commentators 
acknowledge that the words 'hate your enemy' do not stand in the Mosaic 
Law; but by none of them is there any explanation of the incorrect quotation 
given. They tell us that it is hard to love one's enemies - the wicked - and, 
commenting on Christ's words, they add that though a man cannot love his 
enemy, yet he may neither wish him evil, nor actually wrong or injure him. It 
is persistently instilled into us that it is our obligation and duty to denounce 
evil-doers, i.e., to oppose our enemy; and the various steps are mentioned 
by which this virtue may be attained; and thus, according to the 
interpretation given by the Church, the final conclusion is that Christ, 
without any ostensible reason, quotes the words of the Mosaic Law 
incorrectly, and has uttered many beautiful sayings that are, in themselves, 



useless and impracticable. 

It seemed to me that this could not be a true statement of the case. I felt 
sure that there was as clear and definite a sense in these words as I had 
found in the first four commandments. In order to comprehend the real 
meaning of the text, I endeavored, first of all, to take in the sense of the 
incorrect reference to the Mosaic Law, 'You have been told, hate your 
enemy/ It is not without some distinct purpose that, before giving each of 
His own precepts, Christ quotes the words of the old law, 'You shall not kill/ 
'You shall not commit adultery/ etc., and places his teaching in opposition to 
them. Now, if we do not comprehend what meaning Christ attached to the 
words he quotes, neither can we comprehend the duty that he enjoins. It 
seemed to me that the first point it was necessary to make out was for what 
purpose Christ had cited words that are not found in the Mosaic Law. Here 
we find two precepts set in opposition to each other: 'You have been told, 
you shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.' It is obvious that the 
basis of the new commandment must be the very difference between these 
two precepts of the ancient law. In order to see the distinction more clearly, 

I asked myself, 'What do the words "neighbor" and "enemy" mean, in the 
language of the gospel?' And on consulting the dictionary and other 
passages of the Bible, I found that the word 'neighbor' in the Hebrew 
language always signifies 'a Jew.' In the gospel, a similar definition of the 
word 'neighbor' is given in the parable of the Good Samaritan. According to 
the Jewish lawyer's question, 'Who is my neighbor/ a Samaritan could not 
be his neighbor. The same definition of the word 'neighbor' is given in the 
Acts of the Apostles, 7:27. The word 'neighbor,' as used in the gospel, 
signifies a 'fellow- countryman/ one who belongs to the same nation. And I 
hence concluded that the antithesis used by Christ in this passage, when 
quoting the words of the law, 'You have been told, you shall love your 
neighbor, and hate your enemy/ places a 'fellow-countryman' in opposition 
to 'a stranger.' I then asked myself what the word 'enemy' meant, according 
to the Hebrews. It is almost always used, in the gospel, in the sense, not of a 
private, but a common enemy - a national enemy (Luke 1:71, Matthew 
22:44, Mark 12:36, Luke 20:43, and elsewhere). The use of the word 'enemy' 
in the singular number, in the text, 'hate your enemy/ made it clear to me 
that the words referred to a national enemy. The singular expresses an 



enemy taken in a collective sense. In the Old Testament the word 'enemy/ 
when used in the singular, always implies a national enemy. 

No sooner did I comprehend this than my difficulty in understanding how it 
was that Christ, who always quoted the original words of the law, in this 
instance inserts the words, 'You have been told, You shall hate your enemy/ 
which are not in the Mosaic Law, was solved. To remove all doubts as to the 
meaning of the passage, we have only to take the word 'neighbor' as 
meaning a 'fellow-countryman.' Christ speaks of the Mosaic regulations 
concerning a national enemy. He combines in the single expression 'to hate, 
to wrong an enemy,' all the various precepts dispersed through the 
scriptures by which the Jews are enjoined to oppress, kill, and destroy other 
nations. And he says, 'You have been told that you shall love your own 
people, and hate the enemies of your nation; but I say to you, that you love 
all, without distinction of their nationality.' And no sooner had I understood 
this than the second and chief difficulty, i.e., how the words 'love your 
enemies' were to be understood, was removed. It is impossible to love our 
personal enemies. But we can love men of another nation as we do those of 
our own people. I saw clearly that by the words, 'You have heard that it has 
been said, love your neighbor, and hate your enemy; but I say to you, Love 
your enemies,' Christ asserts that all men are accustomed to consider their 
fellow-countrymen as their neighbors and men of other nations as their 
enemies, and this he forbids our doing. He says that, according to the Law of 
Moses, a distinction was made between him who was a Jew and him who 
was not, but was considered as a national enemy; and then he commands 
that no such distinction should be made between them. Indeed, in the 
gospels according to St. Matthew and St. Luke we find that, immediately 
after this precept, he says that all are equal before God, that the same sun 
shines on all, and that the same rain falls upon all. God makes no distinction 
between men, and does equal good to all; ought not men to do likewise, 
without recognizing distinctions of nationality? 

Thus I again found ample confirmation of the simple and practicable sense 
of Christ's words. Instead of an indistinct and indefinite philosophy, I 
discovered a clear, definite precept, which all have it within their power to 
fulfill. To make no distinction between one's own and other nations, and so 
to avoid the natural results of these distinctions, such as being at enmity 



with other nations, going to war, taking part in war, arming for war, etc., and 
to treat all men, whatever nation they belong to, as we do our fellow- 
countrymen, was the requirement of Christ. 

All this was so simple and so clear that I was surprised I had not understood 
it at once. 

The hindrance in my way was the same that had prevented my 
comprehending the prohibition of courts of law and oaths. It is difficult to 
conceive that the very courts of law, which are inaugurated with Christian 
prayer, and consecrated by those who regard themselves as the fulfillers of 
Christ's law, are incompatible with the Christian faith, and are in direct 
opposition to Christ's teaching. Nor is it easier to conceive that the oath of 
allegiance, which all men are made to take by the keepers of Christ's law, is 
expressly forbidden by that very law. And it is hardest of all to conceive that, 
to uphold what is considered not only as necessary and natural, but even 
grand and glorious, as love of one's native land - its defense, its 
aggrandizement, war against an enemy, and so on - is not only sinning 
against the law of Christ, but even abjuring it. We have become so estranged 
from the teaching of Christ that this very estrangement is now the chief 
obstacle to our understanding it. We have turned a deaf ear to his words, 
and forgotten all He taught us of the life we are to lead; how that we should 
not kill, nor even bear malice against a fellow-creature; that we should never 
defend ourselves, but turn our cheeks to be struck; that we should love our 
neighbor, etc. We have grown so used to calling the men who devote their 
lives to murder 'a Christ-loving army'; who put up prayers to Christ for 
victory over the enemy; whose pride and glory are in murder; and who have 
raised the symbol of murder, i.e., the sword, into something almost sacred, 
so that he who is deprived of that symbol is considered as having been 
disgraced; we have grown so used to all this, I repeat, that it now appears to 
us that Christ did not forbid war; and that, if he had intended to do so, he 
would have expressed his meaning more clearly. 

We forget that Christ could never have thought it possible that men who 
believe in his teaching of humility, love, and universal brotherhood would 
calmly and consciously institute the murder of their brethren. 

Christ cannot have supposed it possible, and therefore he could no more 



have forbidden a Christian to make war, than could a father, while 
admonishing his son to live honestly, without injuring or defrauding others, 
exhort him not to cut men's throats on the high road. 

Not one of the apostles, not one of Christ's disciples, could have supposed it 
necessary to forbid a Christian's committing murder, which is misnamed 
war. See what Origen says in his answer to Celsus, chapter 63. 

'Celsus exhorts you to help the sovereign with all your strength, to take part 
in his duties, to take up arms for him, to serve under his banner, if necessary 
to lead out his army to battle. Moreover, we may say, in answer to those 
who, being ignorant of our faith, require of us the murder of men, that even 
their high priests do not soil their hands in order that their god may accept 
their sacrifice. No more do we.' And concluding by the explanation that 
Christians do more good by their peaceful lives than soldiers do, Origen says, 
'Thus we fight better than any for the safety of our sovereign. We do not, it 
is true, serve under his banners, and we should not, even were he to force 
us to do so.' 

It was thus that the first Christians regarded war and thus their teacher 
spoke when addressing the great men of this world, at the time when 
hundreds and thousands of martyrs were perishing for the Christian faith. 

But in our times the question whether a Christian ought to take part in war 
never seems to occur to any. Youths brought up according to the Church 
law, which is called the Christian law, go every autumn, at fixed periods, to 
the conscription halls, and, with the assistance of their spiritual pastors, 
there renounce the law of Christ. A short time ago a peasant refused to 
enter the military service, grounding his refusal on the words of the gospel. 
The clergy all tried to persuade the man that his view of the matter was 
erroneous; and as the peasant still believed in Christ's words, and not in 
theirs, he was cast into prison, and kept there until he denied Christ. And 
this takes place although we, Christians, received 1800 years ago a perfectly 
clear and definite commandment from our God, which said, 'Never consider 
men of another nation as your enemies; look upon all men as brethren, and 
behave toward all men as you do toward your fellow-countrymen; therefore 
you shall not kill those whom you call your enemies; love all and do good to 
all.' 



And when I had understood these simple, definite commandments, which 
admit of no other interpretation, I asked myself, 'What would the world be if 
all Christians believed that these commandments must be fulfilled in order 
to attain happiness, instead of treating them only as commandments that 
must be sung or read in churches, in order that we may find favor in the 
eyes of God? What would the world be if people did but as firmly believe in 
the obligatory character of these commandments as they now do in the 
necessity of daily prayer; of attending public worship every Sunday; of 
fasting on Fridays, and receiving communion every year? What would the 
world be, if all men did but as firmly believe in these commandments as they 
do in the prescribed rules of the Church?' And I pictured to myself men and 
women, in Christian society, living up to these commandments, and instilling 
the same into new generations; ourselves and our children no longer taught, 
both by word and deed, that man must maintain his own dignity, must 
defend his own rights (which cannot be done without humbling or offending 
others), but, instead, taught that no man has any rights, that none can be 
superior or inferior to another, that only he who tries to rise above all others 
is lower and more degraded than others, that there is no feeling more 
debasing for a man to cherish than that of anger against another, that the 
seeming insignificance or foolishness of a man can never justify either anger 
or enmity. Instead of our present social adjustments - from the show- 
glasses of shops to theatres, novels, and millinery - whose tendency is but 
to sensuality, I pictured to myself that we, and our children, were taught, by 
word and deed, that the pleasures of sensational books, theatres, and balls 
was the basest kind of pleasure; that every action whose aim was the 
embellishing or showing-off of our persons was base and disgusting. Instead 
of our present social adjustments, by which it is considered necessary, and 
even in a sense right, that a young man should 'sow his wild oats' before 
marriage, instead of a life in which separation between husband and wife is 
regarded as an ordinary thing, instead of the acknowledged necessity for the 
existence of a class of women who serve to pamper depravity, instead of the 
permission and authorization of divorce, I pictured to myself that we were 
taught, both by precept and by example, that a single, unmarried state, for a 
man in all his virility, was an anomaly and a shame, that a man's leaving the 
woman he was united to, or taking another in her place, was not only as 
unnatural a proceeding as incest, but a cruel and inhuman deed. Instead of 



our lives being based upon violence, instead of each of us being either 
chastened himself or chastising others from childhood to old age, I pictured 
to myself that we were taught, both by precept and by example, that 
vengeance is but a base instinct; that violence is not only shameful, but 
deprives man of his true happiness; that the proper joys of life are only 
those that need no violence to protect them; that it is not he who despoils 
others, or keeps what is his own out of the hands of others, and makes 
others serve him, who is the most deserving of respect, but, rather, he who 
gives most, and who helps others most. Instead of considering it very right 
and lawful that each man should take an oath, and thus give away the most 
precious of his possessions, i.e., his whole life into the keeping of another, I 
pictured to myself that we were taught to regard the intelligent will of man 
as that 'holiest of holies' which no man can ever give away; and that to 
promise anything with an oath is to renounce one's own rational self, and is 
an outrage against all that is most holy in man. I pictured to myself that 
instead of the enmity toward other nations that is instilled into us under a 
semblance of patriotism, instead of the praise of murder or war, which we, 
from our childhood, look upon as a glorious thing, there was instilled into us 
the dread and scorn of all those diplomatic or military institutions that serve 
to disunite men; that to admit the existence of states, laws, frontiers, 
countries, etc., is but a proof of the most brutal ignorance; that to go to war, 
i.e., to kill men who are complete strangers to us, with out any reason, is the 
most horrid crime, of which only a lost and depraved man, degraded to the 
rank of a wild beast, is capable. I pictured to myself that all men believed in 
this, and I asked myself,' What would the world be then?' 

Formerly I had more than once asked myself what the fulfillment of the 
teaching of Christ, as I then understood it, would lead to, and the 
involuntary answer had been, 'To nothing at all.' We shall all go on praying, 
receiving the Holy Sacrament, believing in our redemption and salvation, in 
the redemption and salvation of the whole world through Christ, and still 
this salvation will not be brought about by ourselves; but Christ will come 
again, in His appointed time, to judge the living and the dead, and then the 
kingdom of God will be established on earth, independently of the life that 
we have led. But the teaching of Christ, as I now understand it, has another 
signification: the establishing of the kingdom of God on earth depends upon 



us. The fulfillment of Christ's teaching, as expressed in the five 
commandments, establishes this kingdom of God. The kingdom of God on 
earth is peace among all men. Peace among men is the highest earthly bliss 
that man can attain. It was thus that the Jewish prophets pictured the 
kingdom of God to themselves. And it is thus that each human heart ever 
has and ever will picture it. 

The substance of the entire teaching of Christ is the establishing of the 
kingdom of God on earth, and that brings peace to all men. In the Sermon 
on the Mount, in his conversation with Nicodemus, in the mission he gave to 
the disciples, in all his teachings, he speaks of what causes division among 
men and prevents their living in peace and entering the kingdom of God. All 
Christ's parables are definitions of the kingdom of God - they all seek to 
instill into us that it is only by loving our brethren, and being at peace with 
them, that we can enter the kingdom. John the Baptist, the precursor of 
Christ, says that the kingdom of God is at hand, and that Jesus Christ will 
give it to the world. 

Christ says that he brings peace on earth (John 14:27); 'Peace I leave with 
you, my peace I give to you; I give it to you not as the world gives. Do not let 
your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.' 

These five commandments of Christ do indeed give peace to men. The 
purpose of all the five commandments is to procure peace among men. Let 
men but believe in the teaching of Christ, and obey it, and there will be 
peace on earth; not the peace established by man, which is fleeing and 
transitory, but general, inviolable, eternal peace. 

The first commandment says: Be at peace with all men and do not consider 
any man as worthless or foolish (Matt. 5:22). If peace has been destroyed, 
use your utmost endeavors to re-establish it. The service of God is the 
annihilation of all enmity (Matt. 5:23-24). Let the least disagreement be 
followed by immediate reconciliation, lest you swerve from the true life. 

This commandment includes all in itself. But Christ foresees the temptations 
of the world that destroy peace among men, and gives a second 
commandment against the seductions of sexual relations that destroy 
peace: Do not consider carnal beauty to lust after it. Avoid the temptation 
(Matt. 5:28,30); let each man have one wife, and each woman one husband; 



and let them never leave each other, under any pretext whatever (Matt. 
5:23). Another temptation is the taking of oaths, for it leads men into sin. 
Know, therefore, that to do so is to sin, and consequently never make any 
vow (Matt. 5:34,35). The third temptation is to vengeance, which is called 
human justice. Never take vengeance on any man, nor seek to excuse 
yourself by saying you have received injury at the hands of another; bear the 
wrong done to you, and do not return evil for evil (Matt. 5:38,42). The 
fourth temptation arises from the distinction made between nations, the 
enmity between races and states. Know that all men are brethren, and sons 
of the same God, and never destroy peace in the name of national interests 
(Matt. 5:43,48). Let men leave but one of these commandments unfulfilled, 
and peace will be destroyed. Let men fulfill all these commandments and 
the kingdom of peace will be established on earth. These commandments 
eliminate all evil from the life of people. 

The fulfillment of Christ's commandments will make the lives of men such as 
what each human heart seeks and longs for. All men will be brethren, each 
will be at peace with the other, and each will be free to enjoy all the 
blessings of this world during the term of life allotted to him by God. Men 
will turn their 'swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning 
hooks.' And on earth will be established the kingdom of God; the kingdom of 
peace that was promised by the prophets, which drew nearer with John the 
Baptist, and which Christ announced in the words of Isaiah, 'The Spirit of the 
Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the 
poor; He has sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to 
the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind; to set at liberty those who 
are bruised, and to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.' 

The simple and clear commandments of peace, given by Christ, by which all 
causes of dissension are foreseen and turned aside, reveal the kingdom of 
God on earth to men. Thus Christ is truly the Messiah. He has fulfilled the 
promised. Only we do not fulfill what people always wished for - what we 
were praying for and continue to pray for. 



Chapter 7 

Why does man not do the things that Christ enjoins and that can give him 
the highest earthly felicity - the felicity he has ever longed to attain? The 
answer as usually given, with slight variations of expression, is that the 
teaching of Christ is indeed sublime, and its fulfillment would establish the 
kingdom of God on earth, but it is difficult and therefore impracticable. 

The teaching of Christ, which is about how people must live, is divine, good 
and promises blessing to people, but it is difficult for people to follow it. We 
repeat this, and hear this, from others so often that we no longer see 
controversy in these words. 

It is in the nature of man to strive after what is best. Each teaching of life is 
but a teaching of what is best for man. If men have pointed out to them 
what is really best for them, how do they come to answer that they wish to 
do what is best, but cannot? 

Human intellect, ever since man has existed, has been directed toward 
discovering what is best among all the demands that are made both in 
individual and in social life. 

Men struggle for land, for any object that they may want, and then end by 
dividing all among themselves, each calling what he may get his 'personal 
property/ They find that though difficult of adjustment, it is better arranged 
thus, and they keep to their own property. Men fight to get wives for 
themselves, and then come to the conclusion that it is better for each to 
have his own family; and though it may be hard to maintain a family, men 
keep to their property, their families, and all else they are said to possess. 

No sooner do men find it best for themselves to act in a particular way, than 
they proceed to act in that way, however hard it may be. Then what do we 
mean by saying the teaching of Christ is sublime, a life in accordance with his 
teaching would be a better one than the one we now lead, but we cannot 
lead the life that would be best for us because it is hard to do so? 

If 'hard' means that it is hard to give up the momentary satisfaction of our 
desires for some great and good end, why do we not say, as well, that it is 
hard to plough the ground in order to have bread; to plant apple trees in 
order to have apples? Every being endowed with the least germ of reason 


knows that no great good can be attained without trouble and difficulty. 

And now we say that though Christ's teaching is sublime, we can never put it 
into practice because it is hard to do so. Hard, because its observance would 
deprive us of what we have always possessed. Have we never heard that it 
may be better for us to suffer and to lose, than never to suffer and always to 
have our desires satisfied? 

Man may be but an animal, and nobody will find fault with him for being 
such; but a man cannot reason that he chooses to be only an animal; no 
sooner does he reason than he admits himself to be a rational being, and, 
making this admission, he cannot help recognizing a distinction between 
what is rational and what is irrational. Reason does not command, it only 
enlightens. 

While groping about in the darkness in search of the door, I bruise my hands 
and knees. A man comes with a light, and I see the door. I can no longer 
bruise myself against the wall now that I see the door, still less can I assert 
that, though I see the door and feel convinced the best plan would be to 
enter it, it is hard to do so, and I prefer bruising my knees against the wall. 

There must evidently be some strange misconception in the argument that 
the teaching of Christ is good, and conducive to good to the world, but man 
is weak, man is bad, and, while wishing to act for the best, he acts for the 
worst, and therefore he cannot do what he know is best for himself. 

This notion must be the result of some false assumption. 

It is only by assuming that what is, is not, and that what is not, is, that man 
can have arrived at so strange a negation of the possibility of fulfilling a 
teaching that, as he himself admits, would give him happiness. 

The assumption that has brought mankind to accept this notion is based on 
the dogmatic Christian creed - the creed that is taught to all members of the 
Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant Churches from their earliest 
childhood. 

This creed, according to the definition given by believers, is an 
acknowledgement of the existence of things that seem to be (a definition 
given by St. Paul and repeated in works on divinity and catechisms as the 



best definition of faith). It is this belief that has brought mankind to the 
singular conviction that the teaching of Christ is good, but cannot be put in 
practice. 

The teaching of this creed is literally as follows: God eternal, Three Persons 
in one God, chose to create a world of spirits. The bountiful God created 
that world of spirits for their happiness; but it chanced that one of the spirits 
grew wicked, and therefore unhappy. Some time passed away, and God 
created another world, a material world, and created man, likewise for 
happiness. God created man happy, immortal, and sinless. Man was happy 
because he enjoyed all the blessings of life without labor; immortal, for he 
was always to live thus; sinless, for he did not know evil. 

Man was tempted in Eden by the spirit of the first creation who had grown 
wicked; and from that time man fell, and other fallen men like him were 
born into the world; men labored, sickened, suffered, died, and struggled 
morally and physically; i.e., the imaginary man became the real man, such as 
we know him to be; and we have no grounds for imagining him ever to have 
been otherwise. The state of man who labors, suffers, strives after good, 
avoids evil, and dies; this state, which is real, and beyond which we can 
imagine no other, is not the true state of man, according to this orthodox 
belief, but it is a temporary, accidental state, unnatural to him. 

And though, according to this teaching, this state of man has continued for 
all men from the expulsion of Adam out of Eden, i.e., from the beginning of 
the world to the birth of Christ, and has continued in the same way since 
that time, believers are bound to think that this is only an accidental, 
temporary state. According to this teaching the Son of God, God Himself, the 
Second Person of the Trinity, was sent down from heaven by God, and was 
made man, to save men from this accidental, temporary state, unnatural to 
them, to deliver them from the curse laid upon them by the same God for 
the sin of Adam, and to re-establish them in their former natural state of 
perfect happiness, i.e., of health, immortality, innocence, and idleness. 
According to this teaching, again, the Second Person of the Trinity redeemed 
the sin of Adam by the fact that men crucified Him, and thus put an end to 
the unnatural state of man, which has lasted from the beginning of the 
world. And from that time man believed in Christ, and became again such as 



he was before the fall, immortal, healthy, sinless, and idle. 

The orthodox teaching does not dwell at any length upon the consequent 
results of the redemption, according to which, after the death of Christ, the 
earth should have begun to yield up her fruits to believers without labor, 
sickness should have ceased, and mothers should have given birth to their 
offspring without suffering; for, however great their faith is, it is difficult to 
instill into those who find labor hard, and sickness painful, that labor is not 
hard, and suffering is not painful. Great stress, however, is laid on that part 
of the teaching that says that 'death and sin are no more/ 

It is confidently asserted that the dead live. And, as the dead cannot possibly 
tell us whether they are dead or alive, any more than a stone can tell 
whether it can speak or not, this absence of all denial is taken as a proof of 
the assertion that those who are dead are not dead. And with yet greater 
solemnity and assurance is it asserted that, after the coming of Christ on 
earth, man is delivered from sin by his faith in Him, i.e., that man has no 
need of reason to enlighten his path in life, and has no need to strive after 
what is best for himself; he only has to believe that Christ redeemed him 
from sin to become sinless, i.e., perfectly good. Thus, according to this 
teaching, men must think their intellect impotent, and that therefore they 
are sinless, i.e., cannot err. 

The true believer must fancy that ever since Christ came into the world, the 
earth yields fruit without labor; that children are brought into the world 
without suffering; that there is no sickness, no death, no sin - i.e., no errors. 
He must imagine that what is not, is, and what is, is not. 

Such is the teaching of our strictly logical theory of theology. This teaching 
seems innocent in itself. But a deviation from truth can never be innocent; it 
entails consequences, more or less important, according to the importance 
of the subject of the untruth. In this case the subject of the untruth is the 
whole life of man. 

This teaching calls an individual blissful, sinless; and eternal life the true life, 
i.e., a life that nobody has ever seen, and that does not exist. And the life 
that is, the only one we know, which we lead, and which mankind has ever 
led, is, according to this teaching, a fallen, wicked life. 



The battle between the intellectual and animal nature of man, which lies in 
the soul of each, and is the substance of the life of each man, is entirely set 
aside. The struggle is made to refer to what befell Adam at the creation of 
the world. And the question, 'Am I to eat the apples that tempt me?' 
according to this teaching, no longer applies to man. Adam solved the 
question in the negative, once and forever, in the garden. Adam sinned, that 
is, Adam erred, and we all fell irrevocably, and all our endeavors to live 
rationally are useless, and even godless. I am irrevocably bad, and I must 
know it. My salvation does not lie in the fact that I can order my life by my 
reason, and, having learned to know good from evil, do what is best. No, 
Adam sinned once for all, and Christ has, once and for ever, set the evil 
right; and all that is left for me to do is to mourn over the fall of Adam, and 
rejoice in my salvation through Christ. 

According to this teaching, not only are the loves of good and truth, which 
are innate in man, his endeavors to enlighten by his reason the various 
phenomena of life, and his spiritual life deemed unimportant, but they are 
all vainglory and pride. 

Our life here on earth, with all its joys, with all its charms, with all its 
struggles between light and darkness, the lives of all those who lived before, 
my own life with its inward struggles and consequent victories of reason, is 
not the true life, but a hopelessly spoiled, fallen life; the true life, the sinless 
life, according to this teaching, lies only in faith, i.e., in fancy, i.e., in 
madness. 

Let a man but set aside the teaching he has imbibed from his childhood, let 
him transfer himself in thought into a new man, not brought up in that 
teaching, and then let him imagine in what light this teaching would appear 
to him. Would he not deem it complete insanity? 

Strange and awful though it was to think thus, I was forced to admit that it 
was even so, for only thus could I explain to myself the strikingly 
inconsistent, senseless arguments, which I heard all around me, against the 
possibility of fulfilling the teaching of Christ. 'It is good and would lead to 
happiness, but men cannot fulfill it.' 

It is only the assumption that what does not exist, exists, and what exists, 



does not exist, that can have brought mankind to so surprising an 
inconsistency. And I found that false assumption in the so- called Christian 
faith, which has been preached during 1800 years. 

Believers are not the only persons who say that the teaching of Christ is 
good, but impracticable. Unbelievers, men who either do not believe, or 
think that they do not believe, in the dogmas of the fall and the redemption, 
say the same. Men of science, philosophers, and men of cultivated minds in 
general, who consider themselves perfectly free from superstition, likewise 
argue the impracticability of Christ's teaching. They do not believe, or at 
least think that they do not believe, in anything, and therefore consider 
themselves as having nothing to do with superstition, with the fall of man, 
or with redemption. I thought so too, formerly. I also thought that these 
learned men had other grounds for denying the practicability of the teaching 
of Christ. But, on closer examination of the basis of their negation, I clearly 
saw that unbelievers had the same false idea, that life is not what it is, but 
what it seems to be; and that this idea has the same basis as the idea of 
believers. Men who call themselves 'unbelievers' do not, it is true, believe in 
God, in Christ, or in Adam; but they believe in the fundamental false 
assumption of the right of man to a life of perfect bliss, just as firmly as 
theologians do. 

However privileged science, with her philosophy, may boast of being the 
judge and the guide of intellect, she is, in reality, not its guide, but its slave. 
The view taken of the world is always prepared for her by religion; and 
science only works in the path assigned her by religion. Religion reveals the 
meaning of life, and science applies this meaning to the various phases of 
life. And, therefore, if religion gives a false meaning to life, science, reared in 
this religious creed, will apply this false meaning to the life of man. 

The teaching of the church gave, as the basis of life, the right of man to 
perfect bliss - bliss that is to be attained, not by the individual efforts of 
man, but by something beyond his own control; and this view of human life 
became the basis of our European science and philosophy. 

Religion, science, and public opinion all unanimously tell us that the life we 
lead is a bad one, but that the teaching, which teaches us to endeavor to 
improve, and thus make our life itself better, is impracticable. 



The teaching of Christ, as an improvement of human life by the rational 
efforts of man, is impracticable because Adam sinned and the world is full of 
evil, says religion. 

Philosophy says that Christ's teaching is impracticable because certain laws, 
which are independent of the will of man, govern human life. Philosophy 
and science say, in other words, exactly the same as religion does in its 
dogmas of original sin and redemption. 

In the teaching of redemption there are two fundamental theses on which 
all is grounded: (1) man has a right to perfect bliss, but the life of this world 
is a bad one and cannot be amended by the efforts of man, and (2) we can 
only be saved by faith. 

These two theses have become first truths, both for the believers and the 
unbelievers of our so-called Christian Society. Out of the second thesis arose 
the Church, with its institutions. Out of the first arose our social opinions, 
and our philosophical and political theories. 

All the political and philosophical theories that justify existing order, 
Hegelism and its offspring, are based on this thesis. Pessimism, which 
expects of life what it cannot give, and therefore denies life, is but the result 
of the same thesis. 

Materialism, with its strange enthusiastic assertion that man is but a 
process, is the lawful child of this teaching, which acknowledges that the life 
here below is a fallen life. Spiritism, with its learned partisans, is the best 
proof that scientific and philosophical views are not free, but are based on 
the principle, inculcated by religion, that a blissful eternal life is natural to 
man. 

This erroneous idea of the meaning of life has perverted the whole activity 
of man. The dogma of the fall and of the redemption of man has closed the 
most important and lawful domain of man's activity to him, and has 
excluded from the whole sphere of human knowledge the knowledge of 
what man must do to be happier and better. Science and philosophy fancy 
themselves the adversaries of so-called Christianity, and pride themselves 
upon the fact, while they, in reality, work for it. Science and philosophy 
address everything except the one important point: how man is to improve 



his condition and lead a better life. The teaching of morality, called ethics, 
has quite disappeared from our so-called Christian society. 

Neither believers nor unbelievers ask themselves how we ought to live, and 
how we must use the reason that is given to us; but they ask themselves, 
'Why is our life here not such as we fancied it to be, and when will it be such 
as we wish it to be?' 

It is only through the influence of this false teaching, engrained in the minds 
of our generations, that we can explain how it is, just like man spitted out 
that apple of knowledge of good and evil that he ate in the Paradise 
according to the scripture, that man has forgotten that his whole history is 
but an endeavor to solve the contradictions between his rational and animal 
nature. Instead, he began to use all his wits to search for the historical laws 
of only his animal nature. 

The religious and philosophical teachings of all nations (except the 
philosophical teachings of the so- called Christian world), Judaism, 

Buddhism, Brahmanism, the teaching of Confucius, and of the sages of 
ancient Greece have but one purpose in view - the regulation of life, and the 
solution of the problem of how man must strive to improve his condition 
and lead a better life. The teaching of Confucius deals with personal 
improvement; Judaism consists of man's following the covenant made with 
God, and Buddhism teaches each how to escape the evils of life. Socrates 
taught personal improvement in the name of reason. The Stoics 
acknowledge rational liberty as the sole basis of the true life. 

The rational activity of man has always lain in enlightening, by reason, his 
striving after good. Free will, says philosophy, is an illusion; and it prides 
itself on the audacity of the assertion. But free will is not only an illusion; it is 
a word that has really no meaning. It is a word invented by theologians and 
legislators; and to try to disprove its existence is but wrestling with a 
windmill. Reason, which enlightens our life and forces us to modify our 
actions, is not an illusion, and cannot possibly be explained away. The 
following after reason in order to attain happiness was a teaching taught to 
mankind by all true teachers, and in it lies the whole teaching of Christ. 

The teaching of Christ concerns the human son that is common to all people, 



i.e., it concerns the striving of all men after good; and it concerns human 
reason, which enlightens man in his search. (To prove that 'the human son' 
signifies the son of man is superfluous. In order to consider the words, 'the 
human son' as having any other meaning, it would be necessary to prove 
that Christ purposely used words that have another meaning to express 
what he wished to say. But even if, according to the positive teaching of the 
Church, the words, 'the human son,' signify 'the son of God,' the words, 'the 
human son,' still signify man, for Christ calls all men 'the sons of God.') 

The teaching of Christ concerning the human son - the son of God, which is 
the basis of the whole gospel, is expressed in the clearest manner in his 
conversation with Nicodemus. 'Every man,' he says, 'in addition to his 
consciousness of an individual life, through his human parents, must admit 
that his birth is from above' (John 3:5-7). That which man acknowledges in 
himself as being free, is just what is born of the Eternal Being, of Him Whom 
we call God. This son of God in man, born of God, is what we must exalt in 
ourselves in order to obtain the true life. The human son is the begotten son 
of God (not singly-begotten). He who exalts in himself the son of God over 
all the rest that is in him, he who believes that life is in himself alone, will 
not find himself in contradiction with life. The contradiction only results 
from men not believing in the light that is in them; the light of which John 
the Evangelist speaks when he says, 'In him is life, and the life is the light of 
men.' 

Christ teaches us to exalt above all else the human son, who is the son of 
God and the light of men. He says, 'When you lift up the human son, you will 
know that I do not speak of myself' (John 8:28). The Jews do not understand 
his words, and they ask, 'The human son must be lifted up. Who is this 
human son?' (John 12:34). He answers thus (John 12:35): 'Yet a little while is 
the light in you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness come upon you; 
for he who walks in darkness does not know where he goes.' On being 
questioned what the words, 'Lift up the human son' signify, Christ answers, 
'To live according to the light that is in people.' 

The human son, according to the answer given by Christ, is the light in which 
man must walk while the light is in them. 

Luke 11:35: 'Take heed that the light that is in you is not darkness.' 



Matt. 6:23: 'If the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness?' 
Christ speaks thus to all people. 

Both before Christ and after him people have said the same: that there lives 
in man a divine light, sent down from heaven, and that light is 'reason,' and 
each must follow that light alone, seeking for good by its aid alone. This has 
been said by the Brahmin teachers, by the Hebrew prophets, by Confucius, 
Socrates, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and by all truly wise men who were not 
compilers of philosophical theories, but who sought the truth for their own 
good and that of all men. 

And now, according to the dogma of the redemption, we find that it is 
altogether unnecessary to think or speak of that light in man. Believers say it 
is necessary to consider the nature of each person of the Trinity, and which 
of the sacraments must be observed; for the salvation of man will come, not 
of his own efforts, but through the Trinity, and by a regular observance of 
the sacraments. We must consider, say unbelievers, by what laws the 
infinitesimal particle of substance moves in the endless expanse of endless 
time; but it is not necessary to consider what reason requires of man for his 
own good, because the improvement of his state will not proceed from his 
own efforts, but from the general laws that we shall discover. 

I am persuaded that, in a few centuries, the history of the so-called scientific 
activity in Europe during these latter ages will form an inexhaustible subject 
of laughter and pity for still later generations, who will report somewhat in 
this style: 'During several centuries the learned men of the small Western 
part of the great hemisphere were in a state of epidemic insanity, fancying 
that a life of eternal bliss was to be theirs; and were plunged in laborious 
studies of all kinds as to how, and according to what laws, that life was to 
begin for them, meanwhile doing nothing themselves, and never thinking of 
improving themselves.' And still more touching will this seem to the future 
historian when he finds that these men had a teacher who clearly and 
definitely explained to them what they were to do in order to be happier, 
but that the teacher's words were taken by some to mean that he would 
come in a cloud to set all right, while others said that the words of the 
teacher were perfect, but impracticable; for human life was not such as they 
wished it to be, and was not worth caring about; that human intellect was to 



be directed toward a study of the laws of this life, without any reference to 
the good of man. 

The Church says that the teaching of Christ is impracticable, because life 
here is but a suggestion of the true life; it cannot be good - it is all evil. The 
best way to live this life is to despise it, and to live by faith, i.e., by fancy, in a 
future life of eternal bliss; and to live the current life the way it goes, and 
pray. 

Philosophy, science, and public opinion say that the teaching of Christ is 
impracticable because the life of man does not depend on the light of 
reason by which he can enlighten his life, but on general laws; and that 
there is no need to enlighten life by our reason or to seek to be guided by 
reason, for we must live as we can, firmly believing that, according to the 
laws of historical and sociological progress, after we have lived badly for a 
very long time, our life will grow very good of itself. 

People come to a farm, and find all they want there; a house with all 
necessary utensils, barns full of corn, cellars full of all kinds of provisions; in 
the yard are implements of husbandry, tools, harnesses, horses, cows, and 
sheep - in a word, all that is necessary for living contentedly. People crowd 
in and begin to use what they find, each mindful of himself alone, never 
thinking of leaving anything either for those who are with him in the house, 
or for those who are to come after him. Each wishes to have all for himself. 
Each hastens to take as much as he can, and consequent destruction of 
everything ensues; all are struggling, fighting to possess the property 
themselves; milk cows and unshorn sheep about to kid are killed for meat; 
the ovens are heated with benches and carts; the men fight for milk and for 
corn; and thus spill, spoil, and waste more than they use. Not one of them 
can eat a morsel in peace, each is snarling at his neighbor; a stronger man 
comes and takes possession of all, and he is despoiled in his turn. 

At last these men, all bruised and exhausted with fighting and hunger, leave 
the farm. The master again makes the farm ready so that men may live there 
in peace. Again plenty fills the yard, and again passers-by come in, and the 
struggling and fighting are renewed; all is wasted once more, and the worn- 
out, bruised, and angry men again leave the farm, abusing and hating their 
companions and the master too, for having so sparingly and so poorly 



provided for them. Once again the good master gets the farm ready, and the 
struggling returns over and over again. Now, one day, among the new 
comers there appears a teacher who says, 'Brethren, we are all wrong. See 
what plenty there is here; see how carefully all is provided. There will be 
enough, not only for us, but also for those who come after us, if we simply 
live wisely. Let us not despoil, but rather let us help each other. Let us sow, 
plough, and breed cattle, and it will be well for us all/ And it happened that 
some understood what the teacher said, and they followed his advice; they 
ceased fighting and robbing each other, and they set to work. But some had 
not heard the teacher's words, and others had heard, but did not believe 
him, and they did not do what he enjoined, but continued to fight as before, 
and, after wasting the master's property, they too left the farm. Those who 
obeyed the teacher said, 'Do not fight, do not waste the master's property; 
it will be better for you if you do not act thus. Do as our teacher bids us.' But 
there were many who had not heard, or would not believe, and things went 
on in the old way. But it is said that the time came when all in the farm 
heard the teacher's words, and not only understood them, but knew that 
God Himself spoke to them through the teacher; that the teacher was God; 
and all believed each word the teacher said to be a true and sacred word. 

Yet it is reported that even after this, instead of all living according to the 
words of the teacher, it came to pass that none turned away from violence; 
they all fell to struggling and fighting again. 'We are sure, now,' they said, 
'that it must be so, that it cannot be otherwise.' 

What could that mean? Even beasts know in what manner to eat their food 
without trampling it underfoot; and people who knew how to live better, 
who believed that God Himself had taught them how they were to live, lived 
worse, because, as they said, they could not live otherwise. These people 
must have fallen into some delusion. What could those men in the farm 
have imagined, to induce them to lead their former lives, despoiling each 
other, wasting their master's property, and ruining themselves while 
believing in the words of the teacher? It was this: the teacher had said to 
them, 'The life you lead here is a bad one, improve it and you shall be 
happy.' They fancied that the teacher condemned their life in the farm, and 
promised them another and better life, in some other place, and not in that 
farm. Whereupon they concluded that the farm was but an inn, and that it 



was not worth while trying to live well in it; and that the only thing 
necessary was to endeavor not to lose the good life promised to them 
elsewhere. It is only thus that the strange conduct can be explained; for both 
those who believed that the teacher was God, and those who acknowledged 
him to be a clever man and his words to be just, continued to live contrary 
to his instructions. 

If men would but keep from ruining their own lives, and keep from expecting 
someone from outside to come and help them - either Christ on the clouds, 
with the flourish of trumpets, or some historical law, or the law of the 
differentiation and integration of power! No one will help them, if they do 
not help themselves. And that is easily done. Let them expect nothing, either 
from heaven or earth, and simply cease from ruining their own lives. 



Chapter 8 

Granting, then, that the teaching of Christ gives bliss to the world; granting 
that it is rational; and that man, as a rational being, has no right to renounce 
it; what can one man do alone, amidst a world of men who do not fulfill the 
law of Christ? If all would agree to practice the teaching of Christ, its 
fulfillment would be possible; but what can the efforts of one man avail, if 
the whole world is against him? How often do we hear it said, 'If, amidst a 
whole world of men who do not fulfill the teaching of Christ, I alone begin to 
follow it, by giving up what I love, by letting my cheek be struck, or even by 
refusing to take an oath, or to have any part in war, I shall be robbed, and, if 
I do not starve, I shall be either beaten to death, or imprisoned, or shot; and 
I shall have destroyed the happiness of my whole life, and even my life itself, 
in vain.' 

This objection is based on the same misunderstanding on which the 
objection about the impracticality of following the teaching of Christ is 
based. 

We often hear people argue thus, and I said the same myself, until I had 
entirely set aside the influence of Church teaching, which had prevented my 
taking in the full meaning of Christ's teaching about life. 

Christ gives his teaching as the means of salvation from the corrupt life that 
those who do not follow his teaching lead, and yet I say that I should like to 
follow it, but cannot make up my mind to ruin my life! It would seem, then, 
that I do not consider my life as corrupt, but as something real and good, 
and something that is my own. It is this great misconception that the 
earthly, individual life is something real and something that actually belongs 
to us prevents our comprehending the teaching of Christ. Christ knows this 
delusion by which people consider their own individual lives as something 
real, and something to which they have a personal right; and he shows 
them, in a series of sermons and parables, that they have no claims on life, 
that they have, indeed, no life at all, until they attain true life by renouncing 
the shadow of which they call their life. 

In order to understand Christ's teaching of salvation, we must, first of all, 
comprehend what the prophets Solomon, Buddha, and all the sages of the 


world have said concerning the individual life of man. We may, as Pascal 
says, live on without thinking of all this, holding a screen before our eyes, 
which hides from us the abyss of death, toward which we are all hastening; 
but we need only reflect upon what the individual life of man is to be 
convinced that the entire life, if it is only the individual life, does not make 
any sense but also is an evil mockery of heart and reason of man and of 
everything that there is good in man. And therefore, in order to understand 
the teaching of Christ, we must first of all consider ourselves and repent, so 
that in us may be fulfilled the pexavoia, which the precursor of Christ, John 
the Baptist, speaks of when preaching to men who, like ourselves, had gone 
astray. He says first of all, 'Repent/ i.e., consider yourselves, 'otherwise you 
shall all perish.' He says, 'The axe is already laid to the root of the tree to 
hew it down. Death and destruction are close at hand. Remember this, and 
alter your lives.' Christ begins his preaching with the same words, 'Repent, 
or you shall all perish.' 

Luke 13:1-5: Christ hears of the destruction of the Galileans, killed by Pilate, 
and he says, 'Do you suppose that these Galileans were sinners above all the 
Galileans, because they suffered thus? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, 
you shall all likewise perish. Or do you think that those eighteen men, upon 
whom the tower of Siloam fell and killed them, were sinners above all men 
who lived in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you shall all 
likewise perish.' 

If Christ lived in our days in Russia, he would have said, 'Do you suppose that 

those who were burnt in the circus at Berditche, or who perished on the 

1 

embankment near Koukouevo , were sinners above all others? You shall 
likewise perish if you do not repent, if you do not find that which is 
imperishable. The death of those who were crushed by the tower, who were 
burnt in the circus, fills you with awe, but death, awful and inevitable, awaits 
you too. And you endeavor in vain to forget it. If it comes upon you 
unawares, it will be more awful still.' 

He says (Luke 12:54-57), 'When you see a cloud rise out of the west, you 
immediately say there is a shower coming, and so it is. And when the south 
wind blows, you say there will be heat, and so it is. Hypocrites, you can 
discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it that you do not 


discern this time? Why you yourselves not judge what must be?' 

'You can judge, according to various signs, what the weather will be like. 

How is it then, that you cannot see what awaits you yourselves? You may try 
to escape peril; you may take the greatest care of your life, and still, if Pilate 
does not kill you, the tower will crush you, and if neither Pilate nor the 
tower destroys you, you will die in your bed in worse tortures.' 

Make a simple calculation, as worldly men do when they begin any business, 
as, for instance, erecting a tower, going to war, or building a factory. They 
work with some rational end in view. 

Luke 14:28-31: 'For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit 
down first and count the cost, to see whether he has sufficient resources to 
finish it? Lest by chance after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to 
finish it, all that behold begin to mock him, saying, "This man began to build 
and was not able to finish." Or, what king going to make war against another 
king does not sit down first and consult whether he is able, with ten 
thousand, to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?' 

'Isn't it senseless to work at what will never be finished, however hard you 
may try! Death will always come before you have built up the tower of your 
earthly happiness. And if you know beforehand that however you may 
struggle against death, it will conquer you, would it not be better, instead of 
struggling against it, not to put your whole soul into what shall surely perish, 
but to seek some work that cannot be destroyed by inevitable death?' 

Luke 12:22-27: And he said to his disciples, 'Therefore I say to you, take no 
thought for your life, what you shall eat; neither for the body, what you shall 
put on. Your life is more than meat, and your body is more than clothing. 
Consider the ravens; for they neither sow nor reap; they neither have 
storehouse nor barn, and God feeds them; how much more are you better 
than they? And which of you by thinking about it can add to his stature even 
one cubit? If you are not able to do the very thing that is least, why do you 
take thought for the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow; they do not 
toil, they do not spin; and yet I say to you that Solomon, in all his glory, was 
not arrayed like one of these.' 

However much a man may care about body and food, he cannot add one 



2 

hour to his life . Then isn't it foolish to trouble oneself about things that 
cannot be done? 

While knowing that the end is death, you care only to assure your lives by 
gaining wealth. Life cannot be assured by wealth. Why will you not 
comprehend that you but delude yourselves with a ridiculous deception? 

The purpose of life, Christ says, does not lie in what we possess, and in what 
we gain, what is not ourselves; it must lie in something else than that. 

He says (Luke 12:16-21) that the life of man, in spite of all his riches, does 
not depend upon his property. The ground of a certain rich man brought 
forth plentifully; and he thought within himself, "What shall I do? I have no 
room to store my fruits." And he said, "I will do this: I will pull down my 
barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my corn and all my 
goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul! You have much goods laid up for many 
years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry." But God said to him, "You fool, 
this night your soul shall be taken away of you; then whose shall those 
things be, which you have provided?" So it is with him who lays up treasure 
for himself, and is not rich toward God.' 

Death stands every moment over you. (Luke 12:35-40) Therefore, stay 
dressed and keep your lights shining. And you yourselves be like men who 
wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he 
comes and knocks, they may open to him immediately. And if he shall come 
in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed 
are those servants. And know this: if the owner of the house had known 
what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have 
allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore, be ready also; for the 
human son comes at an hour when you do not think.' 

The parables of the virgins awaiting the bridegroom, of the end of the age, 
and of the last judgment all refer, according to the opinion of interpreters, 
not merely to the end of the world, but also to the peril in which every man 
hourly stands. 

Death, death, death attends us every second. Our lives are passed in the 
presence of death. While working individually for your future, you well know 


that the future will give you nothing but death. And death will destroy all 
you worked for. Thus, it is clear that life for oneself can never have any 
meaning. If there is a rational life, it must be some other kind of life; it must 
be one, the purpose of which does not consist in securing one's own future. 
To live rationally, we must live so that death cannot destroy our life. 

Luke 10:41: 'Martha, Martha, you are careful and troubled about many 
things. But one thing is necessary.' 

All the innumerable affairs that we transact for ourselves will be of no use to 
us in the future; all such things are but the illusion with which we deceive 
ourselves. 'But one thing is necessary.' 

The state of man from the day of his birth is such that inevitable destruction 
awaits him, that is, a senseless life and a senseless death, if he does not find 
what alone is necessary for the true life. Christ reveals to men that which 
alone gives them the true life. He does not invent it, he does not promise to 
give it by his divine power; he only shows mankind that, besides the 
individual life, there must be another life, which is truth, and not deception. 

Christ, in his parable of the vine-dresser (Matt. 21:33-42), explains the 
source of human error, which hides the truth from men, and which makes 
them consider the shadow of life, their own individual life, as the true one. 

Certain people, living in their master's cultivated garden, fancied themselves 
the owners of that garden; and that error leads to a series of irrational and 
cruel actions on the part of those people, ending in their banishment, their 
exclusion from that life in the garden. So likewise do we fancy that the life of 
each of us is his own, that we have a right to it, and that we can do as we 
like with it, without being responsible to any one. We cannot, therefore, 
avoid the same series of senseless and cruel actions and misfortunes, or 
escape the same exclusion from the life we misuse. As the vine-dressers 
fancied that the more cruel they were the better they would assure their 
own prosperity, by killing the servants and the master's son, so do we fancy 
that the more cruel we are the more independent we shall become. 

As it inevitably happens to the vine-dressers who, if they refuse to give the 
fruits of the garden, are driven out by their master, so is it with men, who 
fancy that life for self is the true life. Death expels them and others take 



their place, not as a punishment, but merely because those people did not 
understand life. As the men in the garden either forgot, or would not admit, 
that the garden had only been entrusted to their care, that it was already 
cultivated and fenced around, and somebody had previously been working 
in it for them, and therefore expected them to work too, for the sake of 
others; so do men, while living for themselves, forget, or fail to recognize, all 
that had been done by others before their birth, and all that is done during 
their lifetime; and that, therefore, something is expected of them too; they 
choose to forget that all the blessings of life, which they enjoy, were 
entrusted and are entrusted to them, and must, therefore, either be 
transferred or returned. 

This improved view of life, this peiavoia, is the cornerstone of the teaching 
of Christ, as he says at the end of the parable. According to Christ's teaching, 
the vine-dressers, who lived in the vineyard that they had not cultivated 
themselves, should have known and felt that they were deeply indebted to 
the master; and so should men likewise understand and feel that, from the 
day of their birth to the day of their death, they owe a heavy debt to those 
who lived before them, to those who still live, and to those who are to live 
after them, and before that which was, is, and will be the beginning of 
everything. They should understand that every hour of the life they continue 
to live that debt grows heavier; and that, therefore, the man who lives for 
himself, and does not acknowledge the obligation that binds him to life and 
to the principle of life, deprives himself of life. He should understand that by 
living thus he destroys his life, while desiring to save it, which Christ 
repeated many times. 

The true life is but a continuation of past life, and promotes the good of the 
present life, as well as that of the future. 

To be a sharer of that life, man must renounce his own will and fulfill the will 
of the Father of life, who gave it to the human son. 

John 8:35: The servant who does his own will, and not that of his master, 
does not abide for ever in the house of his master; only the son, who fulfills 
the will of the father, abides forever/ Christ says, expressing the same idea 
in another sense. 



The will of the Father of life is not the life of the individual man, but of the 
'human son/ that lives in people; and therefore a man keeps his life only 
when he considers it as a trust given to him by the Father, in order to serve 
the good of all; and he really lives when he lives not for himself, but for the 
'human son.' 

Matt. 25:14-46: A householder gave each of his servants a share of his 
property and left them, without any instructions. Some of the servants, 
though they had not received any orders from their master concerning the 
way in which they were to use their share of the master's property, 
understood that it was not theirs, but his, and that the property was to 
grow; they, therefore, worked for the master. And the servants who had 
worked for the master became shareholders of the master's business, while 
those who had not worked were deprived of what had been given to them. 

The life of the human son is given to all men, and they are not told why it is 
given to them. Some understand that life is not their own, but is a trust, and 
that it must serve the life of the 'human son.' Others, under the pretext that 
they do not understand the purpose of life, do not live up to that high aim. 
Those who do are united to the source of life; and those who do not, are 
deprived of life. And, from the verses 31 to 46, Christ tells us what is meant 
by serving the 'human son,' and in what the reward of that service consists. 
The human son, according to the words of Christ, will say (v. 34) as the king 
did, 'Come, you blessed of the Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you, 
for I was hungry, and you gave me meat; I was thirsty, and you gave me 
drink; you clothed, visited, and comforted me; for I am the same in you, and 
in the least of those whom you took pity on, and to whom you have done 
good. You lived, not for yourselves, but for the 'human son,' and therefore 
shall you have eternal life.' 

Christ teaches only that eternal life throughout the gospel. And strange as it 
may seem to say so of Christ, who himself rose from the dead, and who 
promised to raise all men, he never, by a single word, confirmed the belief in 
individual resurrection or in individual immortality beyond the grave, but he 
even attached to the raising up of the dead in the kingdom of the Messiah, 
as taught by the Pharisees, a meaning that excluded the idea of individual 
resurrection. 



The Sadducees disputed the raising up of the dead. The Pharisees 
acknowledged it, as all true believers among the Jews still do. 

The raising up of the dead (not the resurrection, as the word has been 
erroneously translated) will, according to the Jewish belief, be accomplished 
at the coming of the Messiah, and the establishing of the kingdom of God on 
earth. And Christ, on meeting with this belief in a temporary, local, and 
carnal resurrection, rejects it, and sets in its place his teaching of the 
restoration to eternal life in God. 

When the Sadducees, who said there was no resurrection, and supposed 
that Christ agreed in opinion with the Pharisees, asked him, 'Whose wife 
shall she be, of the seven?' He gives a clear and definite answer to both 
questions. 

He says (Matt. 22:29-32, Mark 12:24-27, Luke 20:34-38), 'You err, not 
knowing the scripture or the power of God.' And in refutation of the belief 
of the Pharisees, he says, 'The raising up of the dead is neither carnal nor 
individual. Those who are raised from the dead become the sons of God and 
live like angels (the powers of God) in heaven (with God), and there can be 
no question for them whose wife she will be, because, being one with God, 
they lose all individuality.' Concerning the raising up of the dead, he 
continues, in reply to the Sadducees, who acknowledged only an earthly life, 
and nothing but an earthly carnal life, 'Have you not read what God said to 
you? The Scripture says that God said to Moses, from the bush, "I am the 
God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." If God said to 
Moses that he was the God of Jacob, then Jacob is not dead; for God is not 
the God of the dead, but of the living. With God all are living. And therefore, 
if there is a living God, the man who is one with God lives too.' 

In reply to the Pharisees, Christ says that the raising from the dead cannot 
be carnal and individual. In reply to the Sadducees, he says that, besides an 
individual and temporary life, there is another life in communion with God. 

Denying individual and carnal resurrection, Christ asserts that the raising 
from the dead lies in the transfusion of man's life into God. Christ preaches 
salvation from individual life, and sets that salvation in the exaltation of the 
human son and a life in God. Connecting his teaching with that of the Jews, 



as far as concerns the coming of the Messiah, he speaks to them of the 
raising up of the human son from the dead, thereby meaning, not a personal 
carnal rising from the dead, but an awakening to life in God. Of individual 
carnal resurrection he never speaks. The best proof that Christ never 
preached the resurrection of men from the dead is found in the very two 
texts quoted by theologians in confirmation of his teaching of resurrection. 
These two texts are Matthew 25:31-46 and John 5:28-29. In the first he 
speaks of the coming, that is, the raising up, the exaltation, of the human 
son (we find the same in Matt. 10:23), and the greatness and power of the 
human son are likened to those of a king. In the second text, Christ speaks of 
the raising up of true life here on earth, as expressed in the 24th verse. 

It only needs a closer consideration of the meaning of Christ's teaching of 
eternal life in God; it only needs to re-establish in our minds the teaching of 
the Jewish prophets to enable us to comprehend that if Christ had wished to 
preach the teaching of the resurrection of the dead, which, at that time was 
being embodied in the Talmud, and was a subject of dispute, he would have 
done so, clearly and definitely; yet, on the contrary, he not only avoided 
preaching that teaching, but even refuted it; nor do we find a single passage 
in the gospel to confirm it. The two above-mentioned texts have a very 
different meaning. 

Strange as the assertion may seem to those who have not studied the 
gospel, never in a single passage does Christ speak of his own personal 
resurrection. If, as theologians maintain, the basis of the Christian faith is 
the resurrection of Christ, the least we could expect would be that Christ, 
knowing he would rise from the dead, and that upon his rising the chief 
dogma of the faith would be founded, should at least once have said so, 
clearly and definitely. Yet he never does; nor do we find any mention made 
of his resurrection throughout the whole canonical gospel. The teaching 
taught is the exaltation of the 'human son/ or, in other words, of the 
substance of life in man; and this is to acknowledge one's self to be the son 
of God. In himself, Christ personifies man, who acknowledges himself to be 
the son of God. Matt. 16:13-20: he asks the disciples what people say of him, 
the human son. The disciples answer that some think him to be John, 
miraculously raised from the dead; some think him a prophet; some Elijah, 
come down from heaven. 'And what do you think of me?' he asks. And 



Peter, thinking of Christ as he himself did, answers, 'You are the Messiah, 
the son of the living God.' And Christ says, 'Flesh and blood has not revealed 
it to you, but our Father who is in heaven,' or, 'You have understood, not 
because you have believed the words of men, but because, knowing yourself 
to be the son of God, you have understood me.' And having explained to 
Peter that true faith lies in our knowing ourselves to be the sons of God, 
Christ says to the other disciples (v. 20) that they should, in future, tell no 
man that he, Jesus, is the Messiah. And then Christ says that, though he will 
be put to torture and death, the human son, knowing himself to be the son 
of God, will be raised up and will triumph over all. And yet these words are 
interpreted as foretelling his resurrection. 

John 2:19-22, Matt. 12:40, Luke 11:20, Matt. 16:21, Matt. 16:4, Mark 8:31, 
Luke 9:22, Matt. 17:23, Mark 9:31, Matt. 20:19, Mark 10:34, Luke 18:33, 
Matt. 26:32, Mark 14:48. These fourteen texts are all supposed to prove that 
Christ foretold His resurrection. In three of these texts Fie speaks of Jonah in 
the belly of the whale; and in one, of the raising of the temple. In the other 
ten texts, Christ says that the human son cannot be destroyed; but nowhere 
do we find one word concerning his resurrection. 

Indeed, in the original, the word 'resurrection' does not occur in any one of 
these texts. Give a man, unacquainted with theological interpretation, but 
with some knowledge of Greek, these texts to translate, and he will never 
render their meaning in the way our translators of the gospel have done. 
There are, in the original, two different words in these texts: the one is 
avLqiripL, the other is eyeipco. One of these words signifies 'to raise.' The 
other signifies 'to rouse or waken,' or it might be to awaken, to rise. But 
neither of them can possibly mean 'rise from the dead.' In order to be quite 
sure that these Greek words, and the Flebrew equivalent 'coum,' cannot 
signify 'to rise from the dead,' it will suffice to compare the texts in which 
these words are used. They occur very often, but never in the sense of 'rise 
from the dead.' The word 'resuscitate,'' auferstehen,'' ressusciter,' does 
not exist either in the Greek or in the Hebrew languages, any more than did 
the idea itself, which the word implies. In order to express the idea of 
resurrection in Greek or in Hebrew, a periphrasis must be made use of- 
either 'he rose from the dead,' or 'he awoke from the dead.' It is thus in 
Matt. 14:2, where we read that Herod supposed that John the Baptist had 



risen from the dead; the expression is, 'woke up from the dead.' We find the 
same in the gospel according to St. Luke 16:31, in the parable of Lazarus. 
Christ says that even if a man rose from the dead they would not believe 
him. We again find, in this text, the words 'risen from the dead.' In the texts 
where the words 'to rise' or 'to wake up,' are used without the addition of 
the words ' from the dead,' they never did signify, and never can be 
supposed to signify, 'resurrection.' When Christ speaks of himself in the 
above-mentioned passages, which are considered as proofs that he foretold 
his resurrection, he never once appends the words, 'from the dead'. 

Our idea of resurrection is so far from the Jews' ideas of life that we cannot 
even imagine Christ could have spoken to them of resurrection and of an 
eternal, individual life common to all people. The idea of a future individual 
life has not been transmitted to us, either through the teaching of the Jews 
or through the teaching of Christ. It made its way into the teaching of the 
Church from a very different source. Strange as it may sound, it must be 
confessed that a belief in a future individual life is the lowest and grossest 
conception, based only on a confusion of sleep with death, which is common 
to all barbarous nations. The teaching of the Jews, however, stood 
immeasurably higher than that conception. We feel so convinced that this 
superstition is a very exalted one that we very seriously allege, as a proof of 
the superiority of our teaching over all others, the fact that we uphold that 
superstition, while others, as for instance, the Chinese and the Hindus, do 
not. This is maintained, not only by theologians, but also by free-thinking 
learned historians of religion such as Tille, Max Muller, and others. 

Classifying the various religions, they assert that the religions that keep to 
that superstition are superior to those that do not. The free-thinker, 
Schoppenhauer, calls the Jewish religion the most contemptible 
(niedertrachstigste) of all, because it contains no idea (keine idee) of the 
immortality of the soul. And, indeed, in the Jewish religion, neither the 
meaning nor the word expressive of it exists. Eternal life in the Hebrew 
language is 'haieoilom.' The word 'oilom' signifies, 'endless, immutable.' 
'Oilom' likewise signifies 'world' - cosmos. Life in general, and especially 
eternal life, haieoilom is, according to the Jews, proper to God alone. God is 
the God of life - the living God. Man, according to the Jewish belief, is 
always mortal. God alone lives forever. In the five books of Moses we find 



the words 'eternal life' used twice. Once in Deuteronomy 32:39-40, God 
says, 'See now that I am I, and there is no other God but Me. I kill and I make 
alive, I wound and I heal, neither is there any who can be delivered from Me. 
I lift up my hand to heaven and say, I live for ever.' In the book of Genesis 
3:22, God says, 'Behold, the man has eaten of the fruit of the tree of 
knowledge of good and evil, and has become like one of us; and now, he 
might put forth his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live 
for ever.' These are the only two cases in which the words 'eternal life' are 
used in the Old Testament - excepting one chapter of the apocryphal book 
of Daniel - and they clearly define the idea the Jews had both of life in 
general and of eternal life. Life itself, according to Jewish belief, is eternal, 
and it is such in God; man is always mortal - such is his nature. 

The Old Testament does not tell us, as our Bible histories do, that God 
breathed an immortal soul into man, nor that the first man was immortal 
until he sinned. According to the Book of Genesis (1:26), God created man, 
as he did all other living creatures, male and female, and commanded them 
to increase and multiply. God spoke of man just as he spoke of beast. In the 
second chapter it is said that man learned to 'know good and evil.' But we 
are told too, that God 'drove man out of Eden, and barred his way to the 
tree of life.' Thus man has not yet eaten of the fruit of the tree of life, and 
thus he did not attain the haieoilom, i.e., eternal life, but remained mortal. 

According to Jewish teaching, man is mortal. Life for him is but a life that 
continues in the people, from generation to generation. Only the nation, 
according to Jewish teaching, can live. When God says you shall live and not 
die, he speaks to the people. The life breathed by God into man is but a 
mortal life for each individually, but it continues from generation to 
generation if men fulfill their covenant with God, if they keep the conditions 
laid down by God. 

After expounding the laws, and declaring that these laws were not in 
heaven, but in their own hearts, Moses says (Deut. 30:15), 'See, I now set 
before you life and good, death and evil, exhorting you to love God and walk 
in His ways, and to keep His commandments, that you may live.' And verse 
19: 'I call heaven and earth to record against you that I have set before you 
life and death, blessing and cursing; choose life, that you and your 



descendants may live, loving God, obeying Him and cleaving to Him; for He 
is your life and the length of your days.' 

The principal difference between our idea of human life and that of the Jews 
is that, according to us, our mortal life - which passes on from generation to 
generation - is not the true life, but a fallen one, a temporary corrupt life; 
while, according to the Jews this life is the true one, it is the highest blessing 
given to man, and given to him on the condition that he fulfills the will of 
God. From our point of view, the transition of that fallen life from 
generation to generation is the continuation of the curse. From the Jewish 
point of view it is the highest blessing man can attain, and he attains it by 
fulfilling the will of God. 

It is on this idea of life that Christ bases his teaching concerning the true or 
eternal life, which he opposes to mortal, individual life. 'Search the 
Scriptures,' Christ says to the Jews (John 5:39), 'for in them you think you 
have eternal life.' 

A young man asks Christ (Matt. 19) what he should do to have eternal life. In 
answer to his question Christ says, 'If you will enter into life' (He does not 
say life eternal, but 'life'), 'keep the commandments.' He says the same to 
the lawyers, 'Do this, and you shall live' (Luke 10:28); and again he says 'live' 
without adding 'eternally.' In both these cases Christ defines what each man 
should understand by the words 'eternal life.' In using these words he says 
to the Jews what is more than once said in their law, that fulfilling the will of 
God is eternal life. 

Christ contrasts a temporary, personal, individual life with the eternal life, 
which, according to Deuteronomy, God promised to Israel, with the only 
difference that, according to the Jews, eternal life was to continue only 
among the chosen people of Israel, and that it was necessary, in order to 
attain that life, to keep the laws given by God exclusively to Israel; but, 
according to the teaching of Christ, eternal life continues in the human son, 
and, in order to keep it, it is necessary to fulfill the laws of Christ, which 
teach what the will of God is for all mankind. 

It is not a life beyond the grave that Christ contrasts with individual life, but 
a life bound up with the present, past, and future of all mankind - the life of 



the 'human son.' 


Individual life was redeemed from perdition, according to the Jews, only by 
fulfilling the will of God, expressed in the commandments given by God to 
Moses. It was only thus that life was not destroyed, but was to pass from 
generation to generation, among the chosen people of God. Individual life is 
saved from perdition, according to the teaching of Christ, likewise by 
fulfilling the will of God, expressed in the commandments of Christ. It is only 
thus that individual life does not perish, but becomes eternal in the human 
son. The only difference between the two teachings is that, according to 
Moses, serving God meant the serving Him of but one people, whereas, 
according to Christ, the serving of God the Father means the serving of God 
by all mankind. Life could hardly continue through long generations among 
one people; for the nation itself might disappear off the face of the earth, 
and its continuation would depend upon the increase or diminution of 
posterity. But endless life, according to the teaching of Christ, is certain, for 
it is transferred into the human son living up to the will of the Father. 

Let us suppose that Christ's words concerning the day of judgment and the 
end of the world, as well as the words we read in the gospel of St. John, do 
promise a life beyond the grave for the souls of the dead, yet there can be 
no doubt that his teaching of the light of life, of the kingdom of God, has a 
meaning as intelligible to us as it was to his hearers; i.e., that true life is but 
the life of the human son, according to the will of the Father. This can be 
more easily admitted, as the teaching concerning true life, according to the 
will of the Father of Life, includes the idea of immortality and life beyond the 
grave. 

It would perhaps be more just to infer that man, after a life passed in 
following his own will in this world, will not enjoy an eternal individual life of 
bliss in paradise. That would perhaps be more just, but to think thus, to 
believe in eternal bliss awaiting me as a reward for the good I have done, 
and eternal torment as the punishment of my evil deeds, does not lead to a 
clear comprehension of Christ's teaching. To think thus is, on the contrary, 
to do away with the groundwork of Christ's teaching. 

The whole purpose of Christ's teaching is to teach his disciples that, 
individual life being but a delusion, they should renounce it and transfer 



their individual lives into the life of all humanity, into the life of the human 
son. The teaching of the immortality of each soul does not require of us to 
renounce our lives, but, on the contrary, confirms their individuality forever. 

According to the ideas of the Jews, the Chinese, and the Hindus, and of all 
those who do not believe in the dogmas of the fall of man and the 
redemption, the life we have is life. Man lives, has children, educates them, 
grows old, and dies. His children grow up and continue his life, which goes 
on without intermission from generation to generation, existing just as all 
else in the world exists - stones, metals, plants, beasts, and all else. Life is 
life, and we must make the most of it. To live for self alone is irrational. And, 
therefore, since man has first existed on the earth, each one seeks some aim 
in life beyond his own individual life. He lives for his children, his family, his 
nation, for humanity, for all that does not die with his individual life. 

Now, according to the teaching of our Church, life, the greatest blessing 
known to us, is only a part of life, the rest of which is kept from us for a time. 
According to the Church, our life is not the life God wished to give us, not 
the life God ought to have given to us; but a corrupt, bad, fallen life, only an 
imperfect specimen of what life should be. The chief problem of life, 
according to this thesis, does not consist in leading the mortal life that is 
given to us as the giver of it whishes us to do; not in our considering it 
eternal from generation to generation, as the Jews do; nor in uniting it to 
the will of the Father, as Christ taught us to do, but in persuading ourselves 
that after this life the true life will begin. 

Christ says nothing of that imaginary life. The theories of the fall of Adam, of 
eternal life in paradise, and of the immortal soul breathed by God into 
Adam, were unknown to Christ, and therefore He does not mention them, 
nor even allude to them. 

Christ speaks of the life that is, and that always will be. We speak of an 
imaginary life, which never did exist. Then how are we to understand the 
teaching of Christ? 

Christ could never have supposed so strange an idea among his followers. 

He supposes all men to understand that individual life must inevitably 
perish; and he reveals a life that cannot perish. Christ comforts those who 



are in trouble; but his teaching can give nothing to those who are convinced 
that they have more than Christ can give. Suppose I were to exhort a man to 
work, assuring him that he would thereby earn food and clothing, and that 
man were suddenly to discover he was already a millionaire, isn't it obvious 
that he would not heed my words? It is thus with the teaching of Christ. Why 
should I work, when I can be rich without doing so? What profit shall I have 
of living up to the commandments of God, when I am convinced that, 
whether I do or not, I shall live forever, individually? 

We are taught that Christ-God, the second person of the Trinity, saved 
mankind by being incarnate and by taking upon himself the sin of Adam and 
of all mankind; that he redeemed man from sin and the wrath of the first 
person of the Trinity, and that he instituted the Church and the sacraments 
for our salvation; that we have but to believe this to be saved, and to attain 
an eternal, individual life beyond the grave. But we cannot deny that Christ 
likewise saved men by warning them of their inevitable destruction, and still 
saves them by the same; and that his words - 'I am the way, the life, and the 
truth' - point out to us the true path of life, instead of the wrong path of 
individual life that we trod before. 

There may be people who doubt the existence of life beyond the grave, and 
of salvation being based on redemption, but no one can doubt the salvation 
of all people in general, and of each individually, through their being warned 
of the inevitable destruction brought on by individual life, and through being 
shown that the true way to salvation lies in the fusion of their will with the 
will of the Father. Let any rational being ask himself what are life and death 
as applied to himself personally. Let him try to attach any other meaning to 
life and death than that which Christ pointed out. 

Every idea of individual life, if it is not based on the renouncing of self for the 
service of people, of mankind, of the human son, is an illusion that vanishes 
at the first touch of reason. I cannot doubt that, though my individual life is 
perishable, the life of the world according to the will of the Father can never 
be destroyed; and that a fusion with it alone makes salvation possible for 
me. But that is so little, compared to the elevated religious faith in a future 
life! Little, I grant, but it is sure. 

I lose my way in a snowdrift. A man assures me that he sees lights in the 



distance; that there is a village nearby. He thinks he sees the lights, and so 
do I; but it only seems to us that we see them because we desire to see 
them, for we tried to reach these same lights before, and could not find 
them. One of us walks on through the snow, and in a short time comes out 
onto the road and cries, 'Do not go on, the lights you see are only in your 
imagination; you will lose your way and perish! I stand on firm ground, 
follow me, this road will lead us out!' That is but little. While believing in the 
lights, which glimmered before our dazzled eyes, we saw ourselves in our 
imaginations already in the village, in a warm hut, in safety and at rest, while 
here there was only firm ground. Yes; but if we follow the man who spoke 
first we shall inevitably freeze to death; if we mind the second, we shall 
reach the good road. 

And what shall I do, if I alone have understood the teaching of Christ and 
believe in it, among all those who do not understand and will not fulfill it? 

What shall I do? Shall I live as all do, or live according to Christ's teaching? I 
understand his commandments, and I see that the fulfilling of them will lead 
me, and all men, to perfect happiness. I understand that it is the will of the 
Author of all things, the will of him from whom I have life, that these 
commandments should be fulfilled. 

I understand that, whatever I may do, I shall inevitably perish, as will all 
those around me, after a senseless life and death, if I do not fulfill the will of 
the Father; and that the only possibility of salvation lies in fulfilling it. 

By acting as others do, I act against the good of all men, I act contrary to the 
will of the Father of life, and I deprive myself of the only possibility of 
bettering my hopeless state. By doing what Christ teaches me I shall ensure 
the good of all men - of those who live at present, and of those who are to 
live after me. I do what he who gave me life desires me to do. I do what can 
alone save me. 

The circus in Berditche is on fire. All crowd toward the door, crushing each 
other in their efforts to open the door, which opens inward. A savior comes 
and says to them, 'Move further from the door, turn back; the closer you all 
stand to the door, the less hope of safety there is for you. If you turn back 
you will find an exit, and you will be saved!' Whether I alone hear the words 



and believe matters but little; but having heard and believed, can I do 
otherwise than turn back and call upon the others to follow the voice of him 
who comes to save them? I shall, perhaps, be smothered, crushed, or killed; 
but the sole hope of safety is in my going toward the only exit. A savior must 
be a savior indeed, i.e., he must save. And the salvation of Christ is salvation 
indeed. He appeared, he spoke, and mankind is now saved. 

The circus burned for a whole hour; and it was necessary to make haste, or 
else all could not have been saved. But the world has been burning for 
eighteen hundred years; burning from the time Christ said, 'I come to send 
fire on the earth; and how I languish until it is kindled/ And it will burn until 
men are saved. Wasn't man created, and doesn't the fire burn, only that the 
happiness of man might be saved from it? 

I know there is no other door, either for myself or for those who suffer with 
me in this life. I know that neither those around me nor I can be saved, 
except by fulfilling the commandments of Christ, which give the highest bliss 
to all mankind. 

I may have more to suffer. I may die earlier, through fulfilling Christ's 
teaching. I fear neither suffering nor death. He who does not see how 
senseless and perishable his individual life is, he who thinks that he will not 
die, may fear. But, knowing that life for individual happiness alone is foolish 
to the highest degree, and that the end of that foolish life will be but a 
foolish death, I cannot fear it. I shall die, as all do, as those who do not fulfill 
Christ's teaching do - yet my life and death will have some meaning for 
myself and for all. My life and death will minister to the salvation and lives of 
all men; and that is what Christ taught us. 



Chapter 9 

If all people would be fulfilling Christ's teaching, the kingdom of God would 
be on earth. If I alone fulfill it, I will do what is best for all mankind and 
myself. There is no salvation without fulfilling the teaching of Christ. 

But where shall I find the faith that will enable me to obey Christ's teaching, 
to practice it, and never to swerve from it? 'I believe, Lord; help my 
unbelief.' 

The apostles begged Christ to confirm their faith. 'I desire to do good, yet I 
do evil,' says Paul the apostle. 

'It is hard to be saved.' This is what each says and thinks. 

A drowning man calls for help. A rope is thrown him. It could save him; but 
the drowning man cries, 'Confirm my belief that this rope can save me.' 'I 
believe,' says the man, 'that it can save me; but help my unbelief.' 

What does that mean? If a man does not take hold of what alone can save 
him, doesn't it prove that he is unaware of the danger he is in? 

How can a Christian who professes to believe in the divinity of Christ and of 
his teaching say that he would believe if he could? God himself, when on 
earth, said, 'You are on the eve of eternal torment and fire, of complete, 
eternal darkness. I bring you salvation; do as I tell you, and you shall be 
saved.' Can a Christian reject the salvation offered him - remain unmindful 
of his savior's words, and say, 'Help my unbelief?' 

If a man spoke thus, would it not seem as if he not only refused to believe 
that destruction awaited him, but was convinced he should not perish? 

Some children have leaped overboard into the water. The current, for a 
time, upholds them before their clothes are entirely soaked through. They 
swim about, unconscious of danger. A rope is thrown to them from the ship. 
They are entreated by those on board to take hold of the rope. (We find the 
same meaning in the parables of the woman who had found a farthing, of 
the shepherd who found the sheep that was lost, and in the parables of the 
supper and of the prodigal son.) But the children will not believe; not 
because they think the rope is an unsafe one, but because they do not 
believe that they are about to perish. Thoughtless children, like themselves, 


have told them that they will go on bathing merrily, even when the ship sails 
away. The children do not believe that the time is near when their clothes 
will be wet through, their little arms tired out; when they will begin to lose 
breath, and that then they will choke and drown. They do not believe that, 
and therefore they do not believe in the rope of salvation. 

Men are like the children who have jumped overboard, and are sure they 
will not perish. Therefore they do not take hold of the rope. They believe in 
the immortality of the soul and are convinced that they will not perish, and 
therefore they do not fulfill the teaching of Christ-God. They do not believe 
in what is indubitable, only because they believe in what is beyond all 
possibility of belief. And they cry, "confirm our belief that we are not 
perishing.' 

But that is impossible. For them to believe they will be saved they must 
cease to do what brings destruction, and begin to do what will save them; 
they must take hold of the rope of salvation. But they do not choose to do 
this; they wish to be assured that they are not perishing, though their 
companions perish, one after another, before their eyes. And that desire to 
grow sure of what is not, they call 'faith.' No wonder, then, that they have 
little faith and that they long for more. 

It was only when I understood Christ's teaching that I saw that what such 
men call 'faith' is not faith. It is only the false faith that the apostle James 
opposes in his epistle. The Church did not accept that epistle for a long time; 
and when it was accepted it underwent several changes. Some words were 
removed, and others transposed or incorrectly translated. I here give the 
accepted translation, only correcting what is inexact, according to 
Tischendorf's text. 

James 2:14-26: 'What does it profit, my brethren, if a man supposes that he 
has faith, and does not have works? Faith cannot save him. If a brother or 
sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, 
"Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them those 
things that they need; what good is that? Even so faith, if it does not have 
works, is dead, being alone. Yes, a man may say, "You have faith, and I have 
works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my 
faith by my works. You believe that there is one God; you do well. The devils 



also believe, and tremble. But will you know, 0 vain man, that faith without 
works is dead? Wasn't Abraham our father justified by works when he had 
offered Isaac his son upon the altar? See how faith worked with his deeds, 
and by his deeds his faith was made perfect? ... You see then how that by 
works a man is justified, and not by faith alone.... For as the body without 
the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.' 

Apostle James says that the only proof of faith is in the works that proceed 
from it; and that faith from which no works proceed is but a word, with 
which we can neither feed any, nor justify ourselves and be saved. And 
therefore the faith that is not accompanied by works is not faith. It is only a 
wish to believe; it is only a mistaken assertion that I believe when I do not 
really believe. 

According to this definition, faith must be allied to works, and works make 
faith perfect, i.e., true. 

The Jews said to Christ (Mark 15:32. Matt. 27:42, John 6:30), 'What sign will 
you give us, that we may see and believe you? What will you do?' The same 
men said to him when he was on the cross, 'Let him descend now from the 
cross, that we may see and believe.' (Mark 15:32) Matt. 27:42: 'He saved 
others, but himself he cannot save! If he is the King of Israel, let him now 
come down from the cross, and we will believe him.' 

In answer to their prayer that he may 'increase their faith,' Christ says that 
the wish is vain; that they cannot be forced to believe (Luke 22:67). He says, 
'If I tell you, you will not believe' (John 10:25-26). 'I told you, and you have 
not believed. You do not believe because you are not of my sheep, as I said 
to you.' 

The Jews required some outward token to enforce their belief in the 
teaching of Christ, just as the Christian followers of the Church do now. And 
he answers that it cannot be given to them, and explains why it is impossible 
to do so. He says that they cannot believe because they are not of his sheep, 
or, they do not follow the path of life that he points out to his flock. He 
explains (John 5:44) wherein lies the difference between his sheep and 
those who are not of his flock. He explains the reason why some believe and 
others do not, and tells them what the basis of faith is. 'How can you 



believe/ he says, 'when you accept each other's 6o^a , teaching, and do not 
seek the teaching that comes from God alone?' 

In order to believe, Christ says we must seek the teaching that comes from 
God. 'He who speaks from himself, seeks his own teaching (So^av ir|v iSiav); 
but he who seeks the teaching of Him who sent Him, the same is true, and 
no unrighteousness is in Him' (John 7:18). 

The teaching of life, 6o£;a, is the basis of faith. 

All our actions proceed from faith. Faith proceeds from the 6o^a of the light 
in which we consider life. There may be innumerable deeds and numerous 
beliefs, but there are only two teachings of life (6o^a). Christ rejects one of 

them, and acknowledges the other. The one that Christ rejects is that of the 
existence of individual life, as belonging to man. It is the teaching that was 

then, and is still, maintained by the majority of men, and from which 
proceeds all the various beliefs of men, and all their deeds. The other 
teaching is the one taught by Christ and the prophets: that our individual life 
has a meaning only when we fulfill the will of God. 

If a man has the 6o^a that his individuality is of more importance than all 
else, he will consider his individual happiness as the chief and most desirable 
object in life; and according as he finds that happiness in the purchase of 
landed property, in fame, in glory, or in the satisfaction of his lusts, his faith 
will coincide with his views of life, and all his actions will be guided by it. 

If the 6o£a of a man is not such, if he understands the true purpose of life to 
lie in fulfilling the will of God, as Abraham understood it, and as Christ 
taught it, his actions will coincide with his faith in what he knows to be the 
will of God. 

This is the reason why those who believe in the happiness of an individual 
life cannot believe in the teaching of Christ. All their endeavors to do so will 
be in vain. In order to believe, they must change their views of life. Until 
they have done so, their actions will coincide with their creed, and not with 
their desires or their words. 

The desire to believe in the teaching of Christ, both of those who asked him 
for some token, and of the believers of the present time, does not coincide 


with their lives, nor can it ever do so, however hard they may try to fit them 
together. They may pray to Christ-God, attend the Holy Communion, do 
good to mankind, build churches, convert others, and yet, with all this, they 
cannot really works of Christ; because that can proceed only from faith, 
which is based on a very different teaching (6o^a) to the one that they 
profess. They cannot sacrifice the life of their only son, as Abraham did, who 
did not doubt for a moment that it was his duty to offer up his son as a 
sacrifice to God, to the God who alone gave importance to his life. And in 
the same way, Christ and his disciples could not help giving up their lives to 
others, because in that alone lay the object and blessing of their lives. It is 
from men's thus misunderstanding the substance of faith that their strange 
longing arises. They make themselves believe that it would be better to live 
up to the teaching of Christ; and all the while they firmly believe in the 
individual life, and therefore choose to live contrary to Christ's teaching. 

The foundation of faith is a true comprehension of life, which enables man 
to distinguish what is important and good in life from what is unimportant 
and bad. Faith is a correct appreciation of all the manifestations of life. At 
the present time men, whose faith is grounded on a teaching of their own, 
cannot make it agree with the faith that flows out of the teaching of Christ 
any more than the disciples could. And we find this misunderstanding more 
than once clearly and definitely spoken of in the gospel. In the gospel 
according to St. Matthew 20:20-28, and in that according to Mark 10:35-45, 
after saying, that the 'rich man cannot enter the kingdom of God,' and after 
the still more awful saying that 'he who does not leave all, who does not 
give up his life for Christ's sake, shall not be saved,' Peter asks, 'What, then, 
shall we have, who have left all and followed You?' In the gospel according 
to Mark we read that James and John (or, according to Matthew, their 
mother) ask that 'they should sit, one on his right hand, the other on his left, 
in his glory.' They beg him to confirm their faith by the promise of a reward. 
Christ answers Peter's question by a parable (Matt. 20:1-16); and in answer 
to James he says, 'You do not know what you ask,' i.e., 'you ask for what 
cannot be. You do not understand my teaching. My teaching is the 
renunciation of individual life, and you ask for individual honor, and 
individual reward. You may 'drink of my cup' (or live the life like I did); but to 
sit on my right hand, or my left, or to be equal to me, cannot be given to 



you.' And then Christ says that it is only in this world that the powerful of 
the world think much of the glory and power of individual life, and rejoice in 
it; but you, who are my disciples, ought to know that the true life does not 
lie in individual happiness, but in ministering to all, in humbling ourselves 
before all. Man does not live to be ministered to, but to minister to all, and 
to give up his individual life as a ransom for all. In answer to his disciples' 
request, which showed Him how little they understood His teaching, Christ 
does not command them to believe, i.e., to change their appreciation of 
good and evil, which arose from the teaching they had imbibed before him 
(he knows that it is impossible); but he explains what the true life is, on 
which faith is based, and shows that it is a true estimation of good and bad, 
important and unimportant. 

Christ answers Peter's question, 'What reward shall we have for having left 
all, and following you?' with the parable of the laborers who were hired at 
different times, and who received the same pay (Matt. 20:1-16). He explains 
to Peter the error he is in with respect to yis teaching, and that his lack of 
faith proceeds from his error. Christ says it is only in individual life that 
reward is important in proportion to the work done. A belief in the necessity 
of reward being proportionate to the work itself proceeds from the teaching 
of individual life. This belief is based on a hypothesis and on rights, which we 
imagine that we have; but man has no rights and can never have any rights; 
he is only a debtor for the happiness given to him, and therefore he has no 
right to expect anything. Even if he gives up his whole life, he cannot give 
back what he has received, and therefore the master cannot be unjust. If a 
man declares that he has a right to his own life, and requires compensation 
from the Author of all - from Him who entrusted him with life - he only 
shows that he does not understand the true purpose for which life was given 
to him. 

Men, having obtained happiness, require more. These men stood 
unoccupied and miserable in the market place, and did not live. The master 
hired them and gave them the greatest good in life: labor. They accepted 
the master's gracious gift, and then grew dissatisfied. They were dissatisfied 
because they had no clear consciousness of their state. They came to their 
work with the false idea that they had a right to their own lives and to their 
own work, and that, therefore, their work was to be rewarded. They did not 



understand that work itself was the greatest good given to them, in return 
for which they were to return the same good, but that they could claim no 
reward. And men cannot have a just and true faith as long as they possess 
the same erroneous idea of life as these laborers had. 

Christ answers the direct demand of his disciples to confirm, to increase, 
their faith by the parable of the master and the laborers, and explains still 
more clearly the groundwork of the faith he taught them. Luke 17:3-10: The 
precept given by Christ to forgive our brother not only once, but seventy 
times seven, fills the disciples with awe at the difficulty that they would 
experience in putting such a precept into practice, and they say, 'Yes but... to 
fulfill it we must believe. Increase, and confirm our faith/ As they had asked 
before, 'What shall we have for it?' so do they again say, just as all who call 
themselves Christians say, 'I would believe, but I cannot. Strengthen my 
faith.' They say, 'Make us believe,' just as the disciples did when they asked 
for a miracle. 'Make us believe in our salvation by miracles and promises of 
reward.' 

The disciples spoke just as we do. It would be well if, while continuing to 
lead our individual, willful lives, we could be made to believe that by 
fulfilling God's commandments we should be all the happier. We all ask for 
what is contrary to the whole spirit of Christ's teaching, and we are 
surprised that we can by no means believe. And Christ answers the 
misunderstanding, which existed then, and still exists, by a parable in which 
he shows what true faith is. Faith cannot proceed from trust in what he 

4 

says ; faith comes only from the understanding of our situation. Faith is 
based only on the rational consciousness of what is best for us. He shows 
that it is impossible to rouse faith in men by promises of rewards and by 
threats of punishments; that it will be but a very weak trust that will be 
destroyed at the first temptation; that the faith that moves mountains, the 
faith that nothing can shake, is based on the consciousness of our inevitable 
peril, and of the sole salvation possible for us. 

Faith needs no promises of reward. It is only necessary to understand that 
salvation from inevitable destruction lies in a life in unity with all humanity 
according to the will of the Master. He who has once understood this will 
seek no confirmation of his faith, but will be saving himself without his 


requiring any exhortation. 

When the disciples beg him to confirm their faith, Christ says, 'When the 
master comes home with his laborer from the field, he does not tell him to 
sit down and eat immediately, but first orders him to pen the cattle and to 
serve him; and, this done, the laborer sits down to his food and eats. The 
laborer obeys, and does not think himself ill used, neither does he pride 
himself on his work, nor require thanks or a reward for it. He knows that it 
must be so, and that he has only done his duty; that is all that is required of 
him by his service, but just this is, at the same time, for his own good. In like 
manner, when you have done all you are bound to do, think that you have 
only done what was given to you to do.' He who understands his duty 
toward his Master will see that it is only by submitting to his Master's will 
that he can have life, and can know wherein lies the blessing of his life. And 
he will have faith - the faith that Christ teaches us. Faith, according to the 
teaching of Christ, is based on a rational consciousness of the purpose of 
life. 

The foundation of faith, according to the teaching of Christ, is light. 

John 1:9-12: 'That was the true light, which lights every man who comes into 
the world. It was in the world, and the world originated through it, and the 
world did not know it. It came to its own, and its own did not receive it. And 
as many as received it and believed in its name, to them it gave power to 

5 

become the sons of God.' John 3:19-21: 'And this is the judgment , that light 
has come into the world; and men loved darkness rather than light, because 
their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, neither 
does he come to the light, lest his deeds should be seen and disapproved, 
because they are evil. But he who does truth comes to the light, that his 
deeds may be made manifest, because they are done through God.' 

He who has understood the teaching of Christ can require no strengthening 
of his faith. Faith, according to Christ, is based on the light, on the truth. Not 
once does Christ call upon men to have faith in Him; He calls upon them to 
have faith in the truth. 

John 8:40, 46: He says to the Jews, 'You seek to kill me, a man who has told 
you the truth, which I have heard from God. Which of you convicts me of 


untruth? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?' 

John 18:37: Christ says, 'To this end I was born, and for this cause I came 
into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of 
the truth hears my voice.' John 14:6: He says, 'I am the way, the truth, and 
the life.' 

Further on, in the same chapter, Christ says to his disciples, 'The Father shall 
give you another comforter, and he may abide with you forever. He is the 
spirit of truth, who the world does not see and does not know; but you 
know him, for he dwells in you and shall be in you.' 

He says that his whole teaching is truth, that he himself is truth. 

The teaching of Christ is the teaching of truth, and, therefore, faith in Christ 
is not a trust in anything that refers to Jesus, but a knowledge of the truth. It 
is impossible to persuade or bribe a man to fulfill the teaching of Christ. He 
who understands the teaching of Christ will have faith in it, because this 
teaching is truth. He who knows the truth cannot refuse to believe in it. 
Therefore, if a man feels himself to be sinking, he cannot refuse to take hold 
of the rope of salvation. And the question, 'What shall we do to believe?' is 
one that shows a total misunderstanding of Christ's teaching. 



Chapter 10 

We say that it is hard to live in accordance with Christ's precepts! How can it 
be otherwise than hard while we conceal our situation from ourselves and 
earnestly try to maintain the trust that our situation is not what it really is? 
Calling that trust 'faith' we exalt it into something sacred, and either by 
violence, by working upon the feelings, by threats, by flattery, or by deceit 
we seek to allure others to that false trust. A Christian once said, 'Credo quia 
absurdum,' and other Christians now enthusiastically repeat the words, 
thinking a belief in absurdities is the best way to the truth. A clever and 
learned man observed to me, a short time ago, in the course of 
conversation, that the Christian teaching was of no importance as a teaching 
or morality. 'We find the same,' he said, 'in the teachings of the Stoics, the 
Brahmins, and in the Talmud. The substance of the Christian teaching is in 
the theosophical teaching contained in the dogmas.' That means that what 
is eternal and general to all humanity, what is necessary for life, and what is 
rational, is not of most value. But what is quite incomprehensible, and 
therefore unnecessary, but in the name of which millions have been put to 
death, is the most important point of Christianity! 

We have formed an erroneous idea of life, both as concerns ourselves 
personally and the world in general. We have based it on our own 
wickedness and on our personal lusts; and we look upon that erroneous idea 
- united only by outward observances to the teaching of Christ - as most 
important and necessary to life. Were it not for that trust in what is but 
falsehood, which has been upheld by men for ages, the falsity of our view of 
life, as well as the truth of Christ's teaching, would have become manifest 
long ago. 

Awful as it may seem to say so, I sometimes think that if the teaching of 
Christ, with the Church teaching that has become a part of it, had never 
existed, those who now call themselves Christians would be nearer than 
they are now to the teaching of Christ; i.e., to a rational idea of the true 
happiness of life. The morality taught by all the prophets would not then 
have been a closed book for them. They would have had their petty 
preachers of the truth, and they would have believed them. But now that 
the whole truth has been revealed, it seems so awful to those whose deeds 


are evil that they have interpreted it falsely, and men have lost their trust in 
the truth. In our European world the saying of Christ, that 'He came into the 
world in order to bear witness of the truth, and that he who is of the truth 
hears him/ has long since been answered in the words of Pilate, 'What is the 
truth? ' We have taken in earnest these words of Pilate's, expressive of such 
sad and deep irony, and we have made them our faith. In our world not only 
do all live without knowing the truth, and without a desire to know it, but 
also with the firm conviction that of all idle occupations the idlest is the 
search after truth. 

The teaching of life that all nations, long before the existence of European 
society, considered as most important, that teaching which, as Christ told us, 
is the only thing necessary, is alone excluded from our lives. This is done by 
the institution called the Church; and yet even those who themselves belong 
to that institution have long ceased to believe in it. 

The only aperture that lets in the light, toward which the eyes of all who 
reflect and suffer turn, is concealed. There is but one answer to the 
questions, 'What am I? What shall I do? Can I not render my life easier by 
following the commandments of the God who, according to your words, 
came to save us?' And that answer is, "Honor and obey the authorities, and 
believe in the Church.' 'But why do we live in such awful way?' cries a 
despairing voice; 'Why is there so much evil? Can I not change my life to 
avoid taking part in it? Can evil not be mitigated?' The answer is, 'It is 
impossible. Your wish to lead a good life, and to help others to do so, is but 
pride and vainglory. The only thing you can do is to save yourself, your soul, 
for a future life. If you wish to flee from the evils of the world, leave the 
world.' 'There is a way open to each,' says the teaching of the Church, 'but 
know that, having chosen it, you have lost all right to return to the world, 
that you must cease to live, and must voluntarily die a lingering death.' 

There are only two ways open to us; our teachers tell us that 'we must 
either believe our spiritual pastors and obey them and those who are in 
authority over us, and take an active part in the evil they organize, or else 
leave the world and enter a monastery, deprive ourselves of food and sleep, 
let our bodies rot on a iron pillar, bend and unbend our bodies in endless 
genuflections, and do nothing for our fellow-creatures.' Thus, a man must 
either confess the teaching of Christ to be impracticable, and live contrary to 



it, or renounce the life of this world, which is but a type of slow suicide. 

Surprising as the erroneous assumption that the teaching of Christ is sublime 
but impracticable may seem to him who understands it, the error by which it 
is maintained, that he who wishes to keep the commandments of Christ, not 
only in word but in deed, must leave the world, is still more surprising. 

The erroneous idea that it is better for a man to leave the world than to 
submit to its temptations is an old error, known to the ancient Hebrews, but 
entirely foreign not only to the spirit of Christianity, but even to that of 
Judaism. It was against that very error that the story Christ loved and so 
often quoted, of the prophet Jonah, was written. The story contains one 
idea from beginning to end. The prophet Jonah wishes to be the only just 
man, and flies from association with the depraved inhabitants of Nineveh. 
But God shows him that he is a prophet - one whose duty it is to make the 
truth known to those who have gone astray - and that he must not flee 
from them, but live among them. Jonah has an aversion to the depraved 
Ninevites, and once more tries to escape by flight. But God brings him back 
in the body of a whale, and the will of the Almighty is accomplished; the 
Ninevites receive the teaching of God, through Jonah, and amend their lives. 
But Jonah does not rejoice at having been instrumental in accomplishing the 
will of God; he is angry, jealous of the Ninevites; he wishes to be the only 
wise and good man. He goes away into the wilderness, bemoans his fate, 
and reproaches God. And then a gourd grows over Jonah in one night and 
protects him from the rays of the sun; but on the next night worms eat the 
gourd. Jonah, in his despair, reproaches God for letting the gourd, so 
precious to him, wither. Then God says to him, 'You regret the gourd, which 
you called yours; it grew and perished in one night; and do you think I had 
no pity for so numerous a people, who were perishing, living like the beasts, 
unable to distinguish their right hands from their left? Your knowledge of 
the truth was needed that you might have given to those who did not have 
it/ 

Christ knew this story and often quoted it; we are likewise told in the gospel 
that Christ himself, after visiting John the Baptist, who had retired to the 
wilderness before he began his preaching, was subjected to the same 
temptation, and was conducted into the wilderness to be tempted by the 



devil (by delusion). He overcame that delusion and, in the strength of the 
spirit, came back into Galilee and, from that time, without abhorring those 

who were depraved, he passed his life among publicans, Pharisees, and 

6 

sinners, teaching them the truth. 

According to the teaching of the Church, Christ, who was God and man, gave 
us an example of how we were to live. Christ passed His whole life, as we 
know, in the turmoil of life, with publicans, adulteresses, and the Pharisees 
in Jerusalem. His two great commandments are love to our fellow-creatures 
and the preaching of His teaching to all men. Both commandments require 
constant communication with the world. Yet the conclusion drawn from 
Christ's teaching is that, in order to be saved, we must leave all, cease all 
communication with our fellow-creatures, and stand on a pillar. Thus it 
would seem that, in order to follow the example of Christ, we must do just 
the contrary of what he taught and of what he did himself. 

According to the interpretation given by the Church, Christ's teaching does 
not teach either secular men or monks how they are to live in order to make 
their own lives and the lives of their fellow-creatures better, but teaches the 
former what they must believe in order to be saved in the next world, in 
spite of their evil lives, and enjoins the latter to make their lives on earth still 
harder. But this is not what Christ teaches us. 

Christ preaches truth, and if abstract truth is truth, it will be truth in reality. 

If life in God is the only true life, blissful in itself, it will be true and blissful 
here on earth, in all the various circumstances of life. If life here did not 
confirm the teaching of Christ, that teaching would not be true. 

Christ does not call men from better to worse, but on the contrary, from 
worth to better. He pities men, whom he considers as lost sheep perishing 
without their shepherd, and promises them a shepherd and good pasture. 

He says that his disciples will be persecuted for his teaching, that they must 
suffer, and bear the persecution of the world. But he does not say that if 
they follow his teaching they will suffer more severely than if they follow the 
teaching of the world; on the contrary, he says that those who follow the 
teaching of the world will be miserable, and those who follow his teaching 
will be blessed. 


Christ does not teach us that we shall be saved either through faith, or 
through asceticism, i.e., self-deception, or voluntary torments in this life; but 
he teaches us a life in which, besides salvation from the ruin of individual 
life, there will be less suffering and more joy than in individual life, even 
here on earth. 

Revealing his teaching to people, Christ says that by following his teaching, 
even in the midst of those who do not do so, they will be happier than those 
who do not fulfill his teaching. Christ says that, even from a worldly point of 
view, it is a successful plan not to care about the life of this world. 

Mark 10:28-31: Then Peter began to say to him, 'Lo, we have left all, and 
have followed you.' Matt.19:27, 29-30: 'What shall we have therefore?' And 
Jesus answered and said, 'Truly I say to you, there is no man who has left 
house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or 
lands for my sake and the gospel's, but he shall receive, beside the 
persecutions, a hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and 
sisters, and mothers, and children and lands; and in the world to come 
eternal life.' (Matt. 19:27; Luke 5:11; 18:28) 

Christ mentions, it is true, that those who follow him shall be persecuted by 
those who do not; but he does not say that the disciples shall lose anything 
by doing so. On the contrary, he says that his followers shall have more joy 
in this world than those who are not his. 

We cannot doubt that Christ spoke and thought thus. He says it clearly; the 
spirit of his teaching proves it, as well as the way in which he himself and his 
disciples lived. But is it true? 

On an abstract examination of the question, whether the state of the 
followers of Christ or that of those who live for the world will be best, we 
cannot help seeing that the state of the followers of Christ must be better, 
because, by doing good to all, they avoid exciting the hatred of men. The 
follower of Christ will do no harm to any and might be persecuted by the 
wicked; but the followers of the world will be persecuted by all, because the 
law of life, of those who live for the world, is a law of strife, or the 
persecution of each other. The chances of suffering may be the same for 
both, with the difference that the followers of Christ will be ready to bear 



them, while the followers of the world will use all their endeavors to avoid 
them; the followers of Christ will suffer, but will know that their suffering is 
necessary for the good of humanity, while the followers of the world will 
suffer without knowing the reason why they suffer. Reasoning abstractly, 
the state of the followers of Christ should be more profitable than that of 
the followers of the world. But is it so? 

Let each verify this by calling to mind all the trying moments of his life, all 
the suffering, both moral and physical, which he has gone through, and still 
goes through, and let him ask himself in whose name he bore, and still 
bears, all that misery. Was it for the sake of the teaching of the world, or for 
the teaching of Christ? Let him examine his past life, and he will see that he 
never once suffered from having followed the teaching of Christ; he will see 
that all the unhappiness of his life proceeded from his having, contrary to his 
own inclinations, followed the teaching of the world. 

During my life, which has been an exceptionally happy one, according to the 
opinion of the world, I can remember so much suffering borne by me 
because of the teaching of the world, that it might have sufficed for the life 
of one of the greatest martyrs in the name of Christ. All the most trying 
moments of my life, from the orgies and debauches of my student days, to 
duels, war, and ill health - all the unnatural and painful conditions of life in 
which I now live - were and are but martyrdom because of the teaching of 
the world. 

I speak of my life, which, as I say, has been an exceptionally happy one, 
according to the opinion of the world. But how many martyrs there are who 
have suffered, and still suffer, for the teaching of the world, whose 
sufferings I cannot even picture to myself! 

We do not see the difficulty and peril there is in following the teaching of 
the world, only because we look upon all we bear for its sake as being 
absolutely necessary. 

We have become convinced that all the misfortunes that we create for 
ourselves are indispensable conditions of life, and we cannot understand 
that Christ shows us the way to escape suffering and to attain happiness. 

In order to examine the question, which life is a happier one, we must cast 



aside all our mistaken notions, and examine all those around us and 
ourselves without any preconceived idea. 

Pass through a crowd of people, especially those living in a town, and see 
their wearied, sickly, and anxious faces; then think of your own life, of the 
lives of those you know; think of all the unnatural deaths, all the suicides 
that you may have chanced to hear of, and ask yourself what led to all the 
despair and suffering that drove these men to commit suicide. And you will 
see that nine-tenths of the suffering there is in this life is borne because of 
the teaching of the world; that it is all unnecessary suffering that need not 
exist; that men are, for the most part, martyrs of the teaching of the world. 

A short time ago, on a rainy Sunday in the autumn, I drove in an omnibus 
through the market place near Souhareva tower, in Moscow. For the space 
of half a mile the carriage made its way through a compact mass of people. 
From morning to evening thousands of human beings, the greater part of 
whom are ragged and hungry, prowl about here in the dirt, abusing, 
cheating, and hating each other. The same may be seen in all the market 
places of Moscow. These men will spend their evenings in taverns and public 
houses, and the night in their corners and dens. Sunday is the best day in the 
week for them. On Monday, in their infected dens, they will again set to the 
work that they are heartily sick of. 

Reflect what the lives of all these men and women are; think of all they have 
left, of the hard work to which they have voluntarily condemned 
themselves; and you will see that they are true martyrs. 

These men have left their homes and fields; they have left their fathers, 
brothers, wives, and children; they have forsaken all, and have come into 
the town to procure what the teaching of the world forces each to consider 
as indispensable. And not only these thousands and thousands of miserable 
beings who have lost all, and now live from hand to mouth on tripe and 
brandy, but all, I say, from workmen, cabmen, seamstresses, and harlots, to 
rich merchants, bureaucrats, and their wives, lead the hardest, most 
unnatural lives, and yet fail to attain what is considered necessary according 
to the teaching of the world. 

Tell me whether you can find among all these men, from the beggar to the 



rich man, a single man who finds that what he earns is sufficient for all that 
he considers as indispensably necessary, and you will not find one in a 
thousand. Each struggles to get what he does not of himself require, but 
what is considered requisite by the world, and the want of which, therefore, 
makes him miserable. No sooner has he attained it, than more and more is 
required, and so this labor of Sisyphus goes on without intermission, ruining 
life after life. Take, in an ascending scale, the fortunes of men, from those 
who spend thirty rubles a year to those who spend fifty thousand, and you 
will seldom find a man who is not tormented and worn out with his efforts 
to obtain four hundred if he has but three hundred, five hundred if he has 
four, and so on without end. There is not one who, having five hundred, 
would voluntarily exchange with him who has but four hundred. Each strives 
to lay a still heavier burden on his already heavy-laden life, and gives up his 
whole soul to the teaching of the world. Today a man has earned an 
overcoat and galoshes; tomorrow he gets a watch and a chain; then a 
lodging with a comfortable sofa, carpets in the drawing room, and velvet 
clothes; then he buys a house, horses, pictures in gilt frames; and then, 
having overworked himself, he falls ill and dies. Another continues the same 
career, likewise sacrificing his life to the same Moloch, dying in the same 
way, without knowing why he does all this. Well, but perhaps, with all this, 
men are happy. 

What are the principal requisites for earthly happiness, those that no one 
can deny? The first condition essentially necessary for happiness has always 
been admitted by all men to be a life in which the link between him and 
nature is not destroyed - that is, a life in the open air, in the sunshine, in 
communion with nature, plants and animals. Men have always considered 
being deprived of this as the greatest misfortune that could befall them. 
Prisoners feel this privation above all others. And now consider what the life 
of those who live according to the teaching of the world is. The more 
successful their worldly career is, the further they are from all that is true 
happiness. The higher the worldly prosperity they have attained, the less 
sunshine do they enjoy, the fewer are the fields, woods, and animals they 
see. Many, indeed almost all, women dwelling in towns live to old age 
without having seen the rising of the sun more than once or twice in their 
lives. They have never seen the fields and woods, except through the 



windows of their coaches or of railway carriages; not only have they never 
brought up and tended cows, horses, or poultry, but also they have no idea 
even how animals grow and live. These people see stuffs, stones, and wood 
worked by human hands, and do not even see them in the light of the sun, 
but in an artificial light. They hear the noise of machinery, cannons, or 
musical instruments; they inhale strong scents and tobacco smoke; their 
enfeebled digestions crave stimulating food that is neither fresh nor savory. 
Nor are they nearer to nature even when traveling from one place to 
another. They travel shut up in boxes. Wherever they go, be it into the 
country or abroad, the same curtains hide the light of the sun from their 
eyes; footmen, coachmen, and watchmen prevent all communication 
between them and nature. Wherever they go they are, like prisoners, 
deprived of this condition that is so necessary for happiness. As prisoners 
find consolation in a blade of grass that grows in the yard of their prison, or 
a spider, or a mouse, so do these men and women find consolation, from 
time to time, in keeping half withered plants on their window sills, or in 
parrots, lap dogs, or monkeys, the care of which they leave to others. 

A second indubitable condition necessary for happiness is labor - congenial, 
free labor, physical labor, which gives a man a good appetite and sound, 
invigorating sleep. And, again, the greater the prosperity a man has attained, 
according to a worldly estimate, the further he is from this second condition, 
essentially necessary for happiness. All the 'fortunate' of this world, the 
great dignitaries and rich men, are either as completely deprived of labor as 
prisoners are, and struggle unsuccessfully against ill health, which is the 
result of the absence of physical labor, and still more unsuccessfully against 
the ennui to which they are a prey (I say 'unsuccessfully/ for work is a 
source of pleasure only when it is necessary), or they have work to do that 
they hate, as, for instance, our bankers, attorneys, generals, and 
bureaucrats. I say it is work they hate because I never yet met one among 
them who liked his work, and who found as much pleasure in it as a stable 
boy does in clearing away the snow before his master's house. All these so- 
called fortunate beings have either no work to do or work that they hate; 
they are, indeed, in much the same position as a galley slave. 

A third condition essentially necessary for happiness is family life. And again, 
the further advanced men are in worldly prosperity, the less accessible that 



happiness is for them. Most of them are adulterers, and voluntarily 
renounce all family ties. Even if they are not adulterers, they consider 
children as a burden rather than a joy, and try by all possible means to make 
their unions sterile. If they have children, they take no joy in them. They are 
obliged to confide them to others, for the most part to complete strangers; 
at first they are left to the care of foreign nurses or governesses, then sent 
to some government school, and the children grow up as miserable as their 

7 

parents , and often have but one feeling toward their parents: the wish for 
their death, that they may inherit their property. These men are not 
prisoners, but the result is more painful than that entire separation from all 
family ties to which a prisoner is condemned. 

A fourth condition essentially necessary for happiness is a free, friendly 
communication with all men. And again, the higher the step on which a man 
stands in the world, the further he is from this condition. The higher your 
position, the narrower and closer is the circle of men with whom you can 
have any communication, and the lower in intellectual and moral 
development are the few persons who form this spellbound circle, out of 
which there is no escape. The whole world is open to the peasant and his 
wife. If one million men refuse to have anything to do with him, there are 
eighty million working men left like himself, with whom, from Archangelsk 
to Astrachan, he enters immediately into the closest, most brotherly 
communication, without waiting to be called upon or introduced. There are, 
for a functionary and his wife, hundreds of men who are their equals; but 
their superiors do not admit them into their circle, and they are cut off from 
all the lower classes. There may be ten fashionable families for a rich man of 
the world and his wife, but they are cut off from all the rest. Bureaucrats 
and very wealthy men and their families may find about ten friends as 
important and as rich as themselves. The circle of emperors and kings is still 
more restricted. Isn't that called solitary confinement, when a prisoner can 
only have communication with two or three jailers? 

The fifth and last condition essentially necessary for happiness is health and 
a painless death. And again, the higher a man stands on the social scale, the 
further he is from it. Take, for instance, a moderately rich man and his wife, 
and a well-to-do countryman and his wife; in spite of hunger and the hard 


work - which is the peasant's lot through the inhumanity of others, and not 
through any fault of his own - you will find, if you compare the two, that the 
lower men stand on the social scale the healthier they are, and the higher 
they stand the weaker they are in health. Recall to your minds all the rich 
men and their wives whom you have ever known, and those whom you 
know at present, and you will see that they almost all suffer from ill health. 

A healthy man among them - one who does not take medicine continually, 
or at least periodically every summer - is as great an exception as is a sick 
man among the working classes. Almost all the 'fortunate beings' are 
toothless, gray haired, or bald at the age when a working man is still in the 
full vigor of his manhood. They are almost all sufferers from nervous 
diseases, dyspepsia or worse, from over-eating, from drunkenness or 
depravity; and those who do not die young spend half their lives under 
medical treatment, using frequent injections of morphine, and becoming 
shriveled cripples, unable to maintain themselves; living on like parasites. 
Think of what the deaths of these men are: one has shot himself, another's 
body has rotted from disease, another again has died in his old age from a 
too frequent use of medicines; one has died in a drunken fit, another of 
gluttony, etc. All perish, one after the other, for the world's sake. And the 
crowd crawls after them like martyrs in search of suffering and death. 

One life after another is cast under the wheels of their god; the carriage 
drives on, tearing lives to pieces, and again and again fresh victims fall under 
its wheels, with groans, wails, and curses. 

It is difficult to live as Christ enjoins! Christ says, 'He who will follow me must 
leave houses, fields, and brethren, and he shall receive a hundredfold more 
than houses, fields and brethren in this world, and shall, besides, have life 
eternal.' And none follow him. The world says, 'Leave your home and your 
brothers; leave the country to live in a corrupt town; pass your whole life 
either as a servant in a bath-house, soaping other people's backs with vapor 
bath; or as a clerk, counting other people's money; or as an attorney 
general, spending your life in courts of law, busied with various documents, 
in order to make the fate of the miserable more miserable still; or as a 
bureaucrat, hastily signing useless papers all your life; or as a commander- 
in-chief, killing your brethren. Lead a wicked life, the end of which is always 
a painful death, and you shall suffer in this life, and not attain eternal life' - 



and all go the world's way. Christ says, Take up your cross, and follow me/ 
by which he means, 'Bear the fate allotted you humbly, and submit to me, 
your God' - and none do so. But the first lost man, wearing an epaulet, and 
fit for nothing but murder, who says, Take up, not the cross, but your 
knapsack and your sword, and follow me to suffering and certain death,' is 
instantly obeyed. 

Leaving their parents, their wives and children, they go in their buffoon 
attire, blindly submissive to some superior whom they hardly know; cold, 
hungry, worn out by a march above their strength, they follow him like a 
herd of oxen to the slaughter. But they are not oxen - they are men! They 
cannot help knowing that they are driven to slaughter, with the unsolvable 
question, 'Why must I go?' And with despair in their hearts they go on, many 
dieing off through cold, hunger, and infectious diseases, until those who are 
left are placed under bullets and cannon balls, and ordered to kill men 
whom they know nothing about. They kill and are at last killed themselves, 
and not one of those who kill their fellow- creature knows why he does so. 
The Turks roast them alive; they flay them; they tear out their bowels. And 
no sooner does anyone call than others go to the same dreadful suffering 
and to death. And nobody finds it hard. Neither do they themselves think it 
hard, nor do their fathers and mothers think so; the latter even advise their 
children to go. Not only do they think it necessary and unavoidable, but 
even perfectly right and moral. 

We might think the fulfilling of Christ's teaching difficult if it were really an 
easy and pleasant thing to live according to the teaching of the world. But it 
is much more difficult, dangerous, and painful to do so than it is to live up to 
the teaching of Christ. 

It is said that formerly there were martyrs for Christianity, but these were 
exceptional cases; we reckon about three hundred and eighty thousand 
voluntary and involuntary martyrs for Christianity in the course of 1800 
years. Now count those that have died for the teaching for the world, and 
for each martyr for Christianity you will find a thousand martyrs for the 
world's sake, martyrs whose sufferings were a hundredfold more dreadful. 
Thirty million have been killed in war during the present century alone. 

Those were all martyrs for the world's sake. Had they but rejected the 



teaching of the world, even without following the teaching of Christ, they 
would have escaped suffering and death. 

Were a man but to act as he finds best for himself, were he but to refuse to 
go to war, he would have to dig ditches; but he would not be tortured in 
Sebastopool or Plevna. Let a man not believe that it is indispensable to wear 
a watch chain and to have useless drawing rooms, let him but understand 
that all the foolish things the world teaches him to consider as indispensable 
are but useless trash, and he will not work beyond his strength; he will not 
have to endure suffering and constant care; he will not have to labor 
without purpose or rest; he will not be deprived of communion with nature, 
or of the work he loves, or of his family or his health, and he will not die a 
uselessly painful death. 

We need not be martyrs for Christ's sake; that is not what he requires of us. 
But he teaches us to cease making ourselves martyrs for the sake of the 
false teaching of the world. 

The teaching of Christ has a deep metaphysical purpose; it has a purpose 
general to all humanity; the teaching of Christ has the simplest, clearest, 
most practicable purpose for each of us. We may express this idea in a few 
words. Christ teaches men not to act foolishly. In this lies the simplest sense 
of Christ's teaching, and it is one each has it in his power to understand. 

Christ says, 'Never give way to angry feelings, nor consider another as worse 
than yourself; it is foolish. If you give way to anger, if you abuse others, it 
will be worse for you.' Christ says, too, 'Do not lust after all women, but take 
one to you, and live with her; it will be better for you.' He says, likewise, 
'Make no promise, lest you be forced to act foolishly and wickedly.' He says, 
likewise, 'Never return evil for evil, for it will fall back upon you.' Christ says, 
'Consider no men as strangers to you because they live in other lands and 
speak in other tongues than you do. If you consider them as your enemies, 
they will do the same with respect to you, and it will be worse for you. Do 
not act thus, and it will be better for you.' 

Yes, but as the world is organized it is more difficult to resist it than to live 
up to its precepts. If a man refuses to become a soldier he will be 
imprisoned, and possibly shot. If a man does not assure his future by 



acquiring property for himself and his family, they will all starve. People say 
so in order to defend the social organization of the world, but they do not 
think so themselves. They say so only because they cannot deny the justice 
of Christ's teaching, which they pretend to believe in, and they must justify 
themselves in some way for not fulfilling it. 

Christ calls people to the spring that is near them. People suffer from thirst, 
eat mud, and drink each other's blood; but their teachers have told them 
that they will suffer more if they go to the spring toward which Christ calls 
them, and men believe them rather than Christ, and suffer and die of thirst 
when they are but a few steps from the spring, and dare not approach it. But 
if we believed in Christ, if we believed that he came to bring bliss on earth, if 
we believed that he offers us, who are thirsting, a spring of living water, if 
we drew near to it, we should see how craftily we are deceived by the 
Church, and how senseless it is to suffer as we do, when salvation is so near. 
Accept the teaching of Christ in all its sublime simplicity, and the grievous 
deception in which you all live will grow clear to you. 

We labor, generation after generation, to secure our lives by violence and 
the consolidation of property. We think that our happiness depends upon 
power and property. We are so used to that idea that the teaching of Christ 
- which teaches us that the happiness of man does not lie in wealth, that a 
rich man cannot be happy - seems to us to require some great sacrifice for 
the sake of future bliss. And yet Christ does not call upon us to make any 
sacrifice; his teaching does not tend toward making our present lives worse 
for us, but better. Christ in his infinite love teaches men to forbear from 
trying to assure their lives by violence, from caring about riches, just as 
philanthropists teach men to forbear from quarrelling and drunkenness. 
Christ says that if men live without resisting evil, and without riches, they 
will be happier, and he confirms his teaching by his own life. He says that he 
who lives according to his teaching must be ready to die at any moment of 
his life, either of cold or hunger, and cannot call a single hour of his life his 
own. And so it seems that Christ requires great sacrifices of us; yet it is but a 
general assertion of the inevitable condition of each man. The follower of 
Christ must always be ready to suffer and to die. Isn't the follower of the 
world in the same position? We are so used to the deception we are in that 
we have come to consider all that we do for the imaginary security of our 



lives - our armies, fortresses, medicines, property, and money - as 
indispensable for the welfare of our lives. We forget what happened to him 
who intended to build barns, in order to provide himself with riches for a 
long time. He died the same night. All we do for the security of our lives is 
but what the ostrich does when hiding its head in order not to see itself 
killed. We do worse, for in order to secure an uncertain life, for an uncertain 
future, we resolutely ruin our real lives in the actual present. 

The deception lies in the false assumption that we can secure the welfare of 
our lives by a struggle with others. We are so used to this erroneous idea 
that we do not see all we lose. We lose even our lives. Our lives are 
swallowed up in the cares of this world, so that no real life is left. 

Let us set aside all we have become so used to, and then we shall see that all 
we do for the imaginary security of our lives is not done to assure our 
welfare, but to make us forget that our life here is not secure, and that it 
never can be secure. The French take up arms in the year 1870 to assure 
their existence, and that leads to the destruction of hundreds and thousands 
of Frenchmen; and every nation that takes up arms does the same thing 
with the same result. The rich man thinks his money assures the welfare of 
his life, and the money attracts a robber who kills him. A man who is overly 
careful of his health seeks to assure it by taking medicine, and the medicine 
kills him by slow degrees; and even if it does not kill him, it deprives him of 
all vigor and makes him like the paralytic who hardly lived during thirty-five 
years, while waiting for the angel at the pool. 

The teaching of Christ - that life cannot be assured, and that we must be 
ready for suffering and death every moment of our lives - is incontestably 
better than the teaching of the world, which says that we must strive to 
make our lives as comfortable as we can; it is better because, though the 
impossibility of avoiding death and the uncertainty of life are the same, yet, 
according to Christ's teaching, life is not wholly swallowed up in the idle 
employment of trying to ensure our own comfort, but is free, and can be 
given up to the only aim natural to it, namely, our own happiness in that of 
others. The follower of Christ will be poor. Yes, but he will enjoy the 
blessings given to him by God. We have come to consider the word 'poverty' 
as expressive of misery, yet it really is happiness. 'He is poor' means that he 



does not live in a town, but in the country; he does not sit idly at home, but 
labors in the fields or the woods; he sees the sunshine, the sky, beasts, and 
birds; he need not take thought what he shall do to excite his appetite, to 
facilitate his digestion; but he feels hungry three times a day. He does not 
toss about on his soft pillows thinking how to cure himself of sleeplessness, 
but sleeps soundly after his work. He sees his children around him, and lives 
in friendly communion with men. The main point is that he is not obliged to 
do work that he hates, and he need not fear the future. He will be ill, suffer, 
and die as others do (and judging by the way the poor suffer and die, his 
death will be an easier one than that of the rich); but he will indubitably 
have led a happier life. We must be poor, we must be beggars, wanderers 
on the face of the earth (titoxoc; means 'wanderer'); that is what Christ 
taught us, and without it we cannot enter the kingdom of God. 

'But then we shall starve,' is the answer. Christ has given to us one short 
saying in reply to this observation, a saying that has been usually interpreted 
as justifying the idleness of the clergy. Matthew 10:10; Luke 10:7. 'Take 
neither money for your journey, nor two coats, nor shoes, nor a walking 
stick, because he who works is worthy of his meat. And in the same house 
remain, eating and drinking such things as they give; for the laborer is 
worthy of his hire.' 

He who works (e^eqx) signifies literally, 'can and shall have food.' It is a very 
short saying, but he who understands it as Christ did, will never argue that if 
a man has no personal property he must die of hunger. In order to 
understand the saying clearly, we must renounce the idea that the dogma of 
the redemption has made habitual to us: that the happiness of man lies in 
idleness. We must re-establish in our minds the idea, natural to all 
unperverted men, that the necessary condition of happiness for man is 
labor, and not idleness; that every man must labor, that his life will be as 
wearisome and as hard without work as it is for an ant, a horse, or any other 
animal. We must cast aside the barbarous idea that the condition of a man 
who has an inexhaustible ruble in his pocket - a lucrative post, or some 
landed property that enables him to live in idleness - is a naturally happy 
condition. We must re-establish in our minds the idea of labor that all 
unperverted men have, and to which Christ referred when he said that 'the 
laborer is worthy of his food.' Christ never could have thought that men 



would come to consider labor as a curse, and therefore he could not imagine 
a man who did not work, or who had no wish to work. It was an understood 
thing for him that all his followers labored, and he says that a man's labor 
feeds him. And if one man profits from the work of another man, he will 
feed him who works for him; and so he who labors will always have food. He 
will not be rich; but there can be no doubt of his having food. 

The difference is that, according to the teaching of the world, labor is a 
man's service, for which he considers himself entitled to more or less food in 
proportion to the work he does; while according to the teaching of Christ 
labor is the necessary condition of life, and food is its inevitable 
consequence. Work is the result of food, and food is the result of work; it is 
an eternal cycle - one is the effect and the cause of the other. However hard 
hearted a man may be, he will feed his workman as he feeds his horse, and 
he will give the workman sufficient food to enable him to work. 

'The human son came, not be ministered to, but to minister, and to give his 
soul as a ransom for many.' According to the teaching of Christ every man 
will lead a better life if he understands that his duty is not to get as much 
work as he can out of others, but to pass his own life in working for them. 
The man who acts thus, Christ says, is worthy of his hire, and he cannot fail 
to obtain it. By the words 'Man does not live to be ministered to, but to 
minister to others', Christ lays the foundation of what is to assure the 
material existence of man; and by the words 'he who works is worthy of his 
food' Christ sets aside the argument, so often used against the possibility of 
fulfilling his teaching, that he who does so will perish of hunger and cold. 
Christ shows that a man does not assure his own food by depriving others of 
it, but by making himself useful and necessary. The more useful he is, the 
more assured his existence will be. 

In our present social adjustments, those who do not fulfill the law of Christ, 
but who are forced by poverty to work for their neighbors, do not starve. 
Then how can we say that those who do fulfill his commandments, who 
work for their fellow-creatures, will starve? No man can starve while the rich 
have bread. Millions of men in Russia possessing no property live by their 
work alone. 


A Christian will be as sure of his daily bread among pagans as among 



Christians. He works for others, consequently he is of use to them, and 
therefore he will be fed. A dog that is useful is fed and taken care of, then 
how can we think a human being will not be fed and taken care of? 

But if a man is sick, he is of no use; he cannot work; no one will give him 
food, - say people why feel an urge to prove the fairness of the beastly life. 
They say so, but they act in a very different way. The very persons who deny 
the practicability of Christ's teaching, in fact fulfill it. They do not even cease 
feeding a sheep, an ox, or a dog that is ill, neither do they kill an old horse, 
but give it work proportionate to its strength; they feed their lambs, their 
sucking pigs, and puppies in expectation of deriving profit from them by and 
by, and will they not find reasonable work for an old and young, will they 
not raise people who will work for them? 

Nine-tenths of the lower classes are fed, as beasts of burden are, by the one- 
tenth - by the rich and powerful of the earth. And however great the error 
may be in which this one-tenth lives, and however much they may despise 
the other nine-tenths, they never deprive the other nine-tenths of the food 
necessary for their sustenance. 

Objection against the feasibility of the teaching of Christ, stating that if I will 
not acquire and store for myself, then nobody is going to feed my family, is 
true; but it is only true in regards to idle, useless, and therefore harmful 
people, which is the the majority of our wealthy class. Nobody is going to 
feed idle people except for their insane parents, because idle people are 
usless to anyone, even to themselves; but people-workers will be fed and 
raised by even the most evil people. Calves are brought up, and people is a 
much more useful work animal than a bull, as it was appreciated in the 
market of slaves. That's why children can never be left without care. 

Man lives not in order to have others work for him, but in order to work for 
others himself. He who will work, will be feed. 

This is the truth, confirmed by the life across the world. 

Wherever man has worked, he has received food, as each horse receives its 
fodder. He is fed even though he works grudgingly, unwillingly, only caring 
to get his daily labor over as quickly as possible, or longing to earn as much 
as possible in order to get the upper hand of his master. Even he does not 



remain without food, and he is happier than the one who lives by the labor 
of others. And how much happier would the man be who worked in 
accordance with the teaching of Christ, whose aim would be to work as 
much as possible, and to receive as little as possible! How much happier will 
his position be when there will be several around him, perhaps many such as 
he who will serve him in his turn. 

The teaching of Christ about work and its fruit is shown in the story of the 
five and seven thousand men fed with two fish and five loaves. Man will 
attain the highest happiness possible on earth when each, instead of only 
caring about his own personal comfort, acts as Christ taught those 
assembled on the seashore to do. 

It was necessary to feed several thousand men. One of the disciples said to 
Christ that a boy there had a few fish. The disciples had also a few loaves. 
Christ knew that some of those who had come from a distance had brought 
food with them and others had not. That many had brought provisions with 
them is evident from there being twelve basketfuls gathered of what 
remained, as we read in all the four gospels. (If nobody had had anything 
except the boy, there would not have been twelve baskets in the field.) Had 
Christ not done what he did, that is, the 'miracle' of feeding thousands with 
five loaves, what now takes place in the world would have taken place them. 
Those who had provisions with them would have eaten all they had and 
would have over-eaten rather than see that anything should be left. Misers 
would perhaps have taken the remainder home. Those who had nothing 
would have remained hungry, looking on with wicked envy at those who ate, 
and some would very likely have stolen from those who had provisions. 
Quarrelling and fighting would have ensued, and some would have gone 
home satisfied, the others hungry and cross; exactly what takes place in our 
present lives would have happened then. 

But Christ knew what he meant to do; he told them all to sit in a circle and 
enjoined his disciples to offer a part of what they had to those next them, 
and to tell others to do the same. The result was that when all those who 
had brought provisions with them followed the example set them by the 
disciples, and offered their provisions to others, there was enough for all. All 
were satisfied, and so much remained that twelve baskets were filled. 



Christ teaches men to act thus in all the circumstances of life, for this is the 
law of humanity. Labor is the necessary condition of life; and work is a 
source of happiness for man. But if a man keeps to himself the fruit of his 
own or others' work, he prevents its contributing to the general good of 
mankind. By giving up his work to others he acts for the good of all. We are 
accustomed to say, 

'If men do not despoil each other they will starve.' Wouldn't it be more 
correct to say that if men despoil each other there will always be some who 
will starve, for that is the actual fact. 

It does not matter if a man is a follower of Christ or a follower of the world; 
he is never entirely independent of others. Others have taken care of him, 
fed him, and still take care of him. But, according to the teaching of the 
world, man forces others to continue feeding him and his family by threats 
and violence. According to Christ's teaching, man is taken care of, brought 
up and fed by others; and he does not force others to continue feeding him, 
but tries to serve others in his turn, to do as much good as possible to all his 
fellow-creatures. Which life is then a truer, more rational, and happier one? 

Is it a life in accordance with the teaching of the world, or in accordance 
with Christ's teaching? 



Chapter 11 

The teaching of Christ establishes the kingdom of God on earth. To think 
that it is difficult to fulfill his teaching is unfair. It is not difficult; indeed, he 
who has once clearly understood it cannot do otherwise than fulfill it. The 
teaching of Christ is the only possible salvation of the inevitable destruction 
of the individual life. The fulfilling of Christ's teaching does not involve us in 
suffering; it really saves us from nine-tenths of the suffering that we must 
bear for the world's sake. 

And, when I had understood this, I asked myself why I had never followed 
Christ's teaching, which leads to salvation and happiness, but had followed a 
contrary teaching that had brought me nothing but suffering. There could be 
but one answer to that question - the truth had been hidden from me. 

When Christ's teaching first grew clear to me, I did not think my having 
understood it would lead me to renounce the teaching of the Church. It 
seemed to me only that the Church had not arrived at the conclusions that 
the teaching of Christ leads to; but I did not think that the new light, which 
was revealed to me, and the conclusions that I drew from it, would separate 
me entirely from the Church. Not once did I try during my researches to 
discover any error in the teaching of the Church; I intentionally closed my 
eyes to the views that seemed strange and ambiguous to me, as long as they 
did not absolutely contradict what I considered to be the basis of the 
Christian teaching. 

But the further I advanced in the study of the gospel, and the clearer the 
purpose of Christ's teaching grew, the more inevitable it became for me to 
choose between the teaching of Christ, which was rational, clear, and in 
harmony with my conscience, and a teaching that was in direct opposition to 
it and that gave me nothing but the consciousness of my own peril and that 
of others. I could not help throwing each of the Church theses aside, one 
after the other. I did it most unwillingly, often struggling with my feelings, 
longing to soften the discordance between my reason and the teaching of 
the Church. But when I had ended my work, I saw that however hard I might 
try to keep something, at least, of Church teaching, nothing really was left 
for me. 


As I was drawing toward the close of my work, it happened that my son, a 
boy, told me that two of our servants, perfectly uneducated men, who 
hardly knew how to read, had been disputing about a passage in some book, 
in which it was affirmed that it is no sin to kill criminals, or to kill men in war. 
I could not believe such a statement could have been published, and asked 
to see the book. It was An Exposition of the Book of Prayer, third edition 
(eightieth thousand), Moscow, 1879. I read page 163. 

Q. 'What is the sixth commandment?' 

A. 'You shall not kill.' 

Q. 'What does God forbid by this commandment?' 

A. 'He forbids our killing, that is, depriving a man of life.' 

Q. 'Is it a sin to punish a criminal by death, according to the law, or to kill our 
enemies in war?' 

A. 'It is no sin to do so. A criminal is put to death in order to put a stop to the 
evil that he does. 

Enemies are killed in the war in which we fight for our sovereign and our 
country.' 

These are the only words that explain why this commandment is repealed. I 
could hardly believe my own eyes. 

The disputants asked my opinion upon the subject. I said to the one who 
maintained that the text was quite right that the interpretation was 
incorrect. 'Then how is it that incorrect statements are printed?' he asked. I 
could give him no answer. I kept the book and looked through it. The book 
contains: (1) prayers, with instructions concerning genuflections, and the 
way the fingers are to be joined in making the sign of the cross; (2) the 
interpretation of the Creed; (3) extracts from the fifth chapter of Matthew, 
without any explanations, in which the sayings contained in the chapter are, 
for some unknown reason, called the 'beatitudes'; (4) the Ten 
Commandments, with explanations that annul them; and (5) anthems for 
feast days. 

As I have said, I had not only tried to avoid finding fault with the teaching of 



the Church, but I had tried to view it in its best light, and had not sought to 
discover its weak points. Though well acquainted with its academic 
literature, I was completely ignorant of its books for the use of schools. The 
enormous circulation of a prayer book, which excited doubt even in ignorant 
men, struck me. 

I could not believe that a prayer book, the contents of which were quite 
pagan, was the Church teaching, propagated among the people. In order to 
see if it were really the case, I bought all the books published by the Synod, 
or that it allowed to be published, in which there were short explanations of 
the Church Creed, for the use of children and uneducated people, and I read 
them. 

The contents were almost new for me. At the time when I learned the Bible 
history and the catechism, these books did not exist. There was, at that 
time, as far as I can remember, neither any explanation of the beatitudes, 
nor were we told that to kill a fellow-creature is no sin. This was not to be 
found in the old Russian catechisms of Platon; neither is it to be found in the 
catechisms of Peter Moguilla, or of Beliakoff. It was an innovation made by 
Filaret, who likewise wrote a catechism for the military classes. The 
Exposition of the Book of Prayer was taken from that very catechism. The 
book that serves as the basis is A Complete Christian Catechism for the use 
of all Orthodox Christians, published by order of his Imperial Majesty. 

The book is divided into three parts: on faith, hope, and love. The first part 
contains an analysis of the Nicene Creed. The second, an analysis of the 
Lord's Prayer, and of eight verses of the fifth chapter of Matthew, which 
form the introduction to the Sermon on the Mount, and which are, for some 
unknown reason, termed 'beatitudes.' Both of these sections treat the 
dogmas of the Church, prayers, and sacraments. The third part treats of the 
duties of a Christian. We do not find the commandments of Christ 
expounded in this part, but the Ten Commandments of Moses. These 
commandments are expounded in a way that seems to enjoin men to leave 
them unfulfilled, and to act contrary to them. In reference to the first 
commandment, which enjoins us to worship God alone, the catechism 
teaches us to worship angels and saints, as well as the Virgin Mary and the 
three persons of the godhead. (The Complete Catechism, pages 107, 108) In 



reference to the second commandment, 'You shall not make for yourself any 
graven image/ the catechism teaches us to worship images (p. 108). In 
reference to the third commandment, 'You shall not take the name of the 
Lord your God in vain,' the catechism tells men it is their duty to take an 
oath every time the legal authorities may require it of them (p. 111). In 
reference to the fourth commandment, 'To keep holy the Saturday,' the 
catechism enjoins us to keep Sunday holy as well as thirteen great holidays 
and a number of smaller ones, and to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays (p. 
112-115). In reference to the fifth commandment, 'Honor your father and 
your mother,' the catechism tells us it is our obligation and duty to honor 
our sovereign, our father-land, our spiritual pastors, and all those who are 
put in authority over us; and about three pages are taken up with the 
enumeration of the authorities we are to honor - schoolmasters, civil 
commanders, judges, military commanders, masters (sic) for those who 
serve and whose property they are (p. 116-119). I cite from the 64th edition 
of the catechism published in 1880. Twenty years have gone by since slavery 
has been abolished, and no one has taken the trouble to remove the 
sentence that was added to the commandment, 'Honor your father and 
mother,' in order to uphold and justify slavery. 

With regard to the sixth commandment, 'You shall not kill,' men are taught 
from the very first lines to kill. 

What does the sixth commandment forbid? 

Murder; or taking away our neighbor's life in any way. 

Is taking a man's life always illegal murder? 

Murder is not unlawful, when it is our duty to take away a man's life; for 
instance: 

When we punish a criminal by death. 

When we kill the enemies in fighting for our sovereign and our native land. 
And further on: 

What other instances can you cite of murder? 

... When a man harbors a murderer or sets him free. 



And that is published in hundreds and thousands of copies, and instilled into 
the Russians by violence, by threats and fear of punishment, under the 
pretence of its being the Christian teaching. This is taught to the whole 
Russian nation. This is taught to innocent children, in speaking of whom 
Christ said, 'Allow little children to come to me, for theirs is the kingdom of 
God'; to children whom we must be like, in order to enter the kingdom of 
God; like them in knowing nothing of all this; to children, in speaking of 
whom Christ said, 'Woe to him who tempts one of these little ones.' And 
these children are made to learn this; they are told that it is the sacred law 
of God! 

Such things are not proclamations secretly propagated, under fear of being 
sent to hard work in the mines; but they are proclamations, acting contrary 
to which leads men to hard work in the mines. While I write, a chill creeps 
over me at my daring to say what I must say - that we have no right to 
annihilate the commandments of God, which are written in all His laws and 
in all our hearts, by adding such words as 'duty,' 'our sovereign,' 'our father- 
land,' etc., which explain nothing. 

Yes, what Christ warned us against has come to pass, for he said (Luke 
11:33-36, and Matt. 6:23), 'Take heed that the light that is in you is not 
darkened. If the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!' 

The light that is in us has indeed become darkness; and that darkness is an 
awful one. 

Christ said, 'Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees; for you shut up the kingdom 
of God against men. For you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow 
others to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; for you 
devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayers; therefore 
you are still more guilty. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for 
you search seas and lands to make one proselyte, and when you have done 
so, you make him worse than he had been before. Woe to you, blind 
guides!' 

'Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you build up the 
tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchers of the righteous; and you 
suppose that if you had lived in the days when the prophets were martyred, 



you would not have joined in shedding their blood. Then you are witnesses 
against yourselves, that you are no better than those who killed the 
prophets. Fill up then the measure begun by those like you yourselves. And 
behold, I will send to you wise prophets and scribes, and some of them you 
shall kill and crucify, and some of them shall you scourge in your synagogues 
and drive them from city to city. And may all the righteous blood shed since 
the days of Abel fall back upon your heads. 

'Every blasphemy may be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Holy Ghost 
shall never be forgiven.' 

Isn't it as if this had been written only yesterday against those who now 
force men to accept their faith, and persecute and destroy all the prophets 
and just men, who try to bring their deception to light? 

And I saw that though the Church calls its teaching a Christian teaching, it is 
in truth the very darkness against which Christ strove and enjoined his 
disciples to strive. 

The teaching of Christ has two parts. First, it bears upon the life of each 
individual and upon our social lives; or it has an ethical mission. Second, it 
points out why men ought to live in the way it enjoins and not otherwise; or 
it has a metaphysical mission. One is the effect and, at the same time, the 
cause of the other. Man must live thus because such is the purpose of his 
creation; or the purpose of his creation is such, and therefore he must life 
thus. These two sides of every teaching are to be found in all the religions of 
the world. Such is the religion of Brahma, Confucius, Buddha, and Moses, 
and such is the religion of Christ. It teaches us how we are to live and 
explains why we are to live thus. But what befell all these other teachings 
has befallen the teaching of Christ also. Men have turned aside from it, and 
there are many who try to justify their having done so. Sitting down in 
Moses' seat, they explain the metaphysical part of the teaching in a way that 
makes the ethical requirements of the teaching no longer obligatory, and 
they replace them by outward worship, rites, and ceremonies. The same 
occurs in all religions, but it appears to me that never has the evil influence 
been so striking as in Christianity. It acted with peculiar force, because the 
teaching of Christ is the most sublime of all teachings; it is the most sublime 
just because the metaphysical and ethical parts of the teaching are so 



indissolubly bound together, and so bear upon each other that it is 
impossible to separate one from the other without depriving the whole 
teaching of its true sense. The teaching of Christ is Protestantism by itself, 
for it rejects not only all the ritualistic observances of Judaism, but also 
every outward form of worship. This rupture in Christianity could have no 
other effect than to completely pervert the teaching and deprive it of all 
sense. And it did so. The rupture between the teaching of life and the 
exposition of how we are to live began with the sermon of Paul, who did not 
know the ethical teaching expressed in the gospel of Matthew, and who 
preached a metaphysically cabalistic theory, foreign to Christ. The rupture 
was definitely accomplished in the time of Constantine, when it was found 
possible to array the whole pagan course of life in Christian clothing, without 
any change, and then to call it Christianity. From the time of Constantine, 
the heathen of heathens, whom the Church has canonized for all his vices 
and crimes, began 'councils/ and the center of gravity of Christianity was 
transferred to the metaphysical side of the teaching alone. And this 
metaphysical teaching, with the rites that form part of it, losing more and 
more of its fundamental sense, reached its present point. It has become a 
teaching that explains the mysteries of life in heaven, and gives the most 
complicated rites for divine worship, but at the same time gives no religious 
teaching at all concerning life on earth. 

All religious creeds, except that of the Christian Church, enjoin, besides the 
observance of certain rites, good deeds and forbearance from evil ones. 
Judaism requires circumcision, the keeping of the Sabbath, the bestowing of 
alms, the keeping of the year of jubilee, and many other things. Islam 
requires circumcision, daily prayers five times a day, the tenth part of a 
man's riches to be given to the poor, the adoration of the tomb of the 
prophet, and so on. We find the same in all other religions. Be the duties 
good or bad, they are deeds. Pseudo-Christianity alone exacts nothing of its 
followers. There is nothing that is obligatory to a Christian, if we exclude 
fast-days and prayers, which the Church itself does not consider as 
obligatory; there is nothing that he must refrain from. All that is necessary 
for a pseudo-Christian is never to neglect the sacraments. But the believer 
does not administer the sacraments to himself; others administer them to 
him. No obligation lies on the pseudo-Christian; the Church does all that is 



necessary for him: he is baptized and anointed, the sacraments of Holy 
Communion and Extreme Unction are administered to him, his confession is 
taken for granted if he is unable to make it orally, prayers are said for him, 
and he is saved. From the time of Constantine the Church never required 
any deeds of its members; it never even enjoined a man to refrain from 
anything. The Christian Church acknowledged and consecrated all that had 
existed in the pagan world. It acknowledged and consecrated divorce, 
slavery, courts of law, and all the powers that had existed before, such as 
war and persecution, and only required evil to be renounced at baptism in 
word. 

The Church acknowledged the teaching of Christ in word, but denied it in 
deed. 

Instead of pointing out to the world what life ought to be, the Church 
expounded the metaphysical part of Christ's teaching in a way that required 
no duties, and did not hinder people from living on as they had lived before. 
The Church, having once given way to the world, followed it ever after. The 
world organized its existence in direct opposition to the teaching of Christ, 
and the Church invented metaphors according to which it appeared that 
men who really lived contrary to the law of Christ lived in accordance with it. 
And the world began to lead a life that rapidly grew worse than that of the 
pagans, and the Church began to justify this way of living and to affirm that 
it was strictly in accordance with the teaching of Christ. 

But a time came when the light of the true teaching, which lies in the gospel, 
penetrated among the people in spite of the Church, which had tried to 
conceal the teaching by forbidding the translation of the Bible; the time 
came when this light penetrated among the people through so-called 
sectarians, and even through free-thinkers, and then the falsity of the 
Church teaching grew evident to all, and men began to change their former 
lives and live up to that teaching of Christ that had reached them 
independently of the Church. 

Thus men annihilated slavery, which had been justified by the Church; 
annihilated religious executions, which had been sanctioned by the Church; 
annihilated the power of sovereigns and popes, which had been consecrated 
by the Church; and now the turn of property and kingdoms has come. The 



Church never rose in defense of anything, and cannot do so, because the 
annihilation of these false principles of life is based on the Christian teaching 
that the Church has preached and still preaches. 

The teaching of life has emancipated itself from the Church, and has 
established itself independently of it. 

The Church retains the right to interpret Christ's teaching; but what 
interpretation can it give? The metaphysical explanation of the teaching has 
weight only when it explains what life is, or ought to be. But no such 
teaching is left to the Church. It could only speak of the life that it had 
organized of old, which is now no more. If any of the old interpretations 
remain, as, for instance, when the catechism tells us that we must kill when 
it is our duty to do so, nobody believes them; and nothing is left to the 
Church but its temples, images, brocades, and words. 

The Church has carried the light of the Christian teaching of life through 
eighteen centuries; and while trying to conceal it in its raiment it has been 
burnt itself in this light. The world, with its social adjustments consecrated 
by the Church, has now thrown the Church aside in the name of the same 
Christian truths that the Church unwillingly carried along with it, and the 
world now lives without it. The Church is done with, and it is impossible to 
conceal the fact. All those who really live, and do not drearily vegetate, in 
our European world have left the Church. And let no one say that it is so 
rotten in Western Europe; our Russia, with its millions of rationalists 
Christians, educated and uneducated, having abandoned the Church 
doctrine, undeniably proves that it, in the sense of falling away from the 
Church, thank God, much more 'rotten' than Europe. 

All living beings are independent of the Church. 

State power is holding on tradition, on science, on national election, on 
brute force, you name it, only not on Church. 

Wars and relations between countries are established on the principle of 
nationalities, equilibrium, anything else but the Church. Government 
agencies directly ignore Church. The idea that the Church could be the 
foundation for the court, the property, in our time, is just ridiculous. Science 
is not only not conducive to the Church's doctrine, but inadvertently, 



unintentionally in its development is always hostile to the Church. Art, which 
at first served the Church alone, now has separated from it. Not only the 
whole life has emancipated from the Church, the life has no relationship to 
the Church other than contempt, while the Church tries to remind its former 
rights. If there is a form that we call Church, it's just because people are 
afraid to break up the vessel that kept a valuable content once; only this can 
explain the existence in our century of Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and various 
Protestant Churches. 

All Churches, whether Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant, are like sentinels 
keeping guard over a captive, while the captive has escaped and even walks 
about among the sentinels. All that now forms true 'life' in the world, 
Socialism, Communism, theories of political economy, utilitarianism, liberty 
and equality, all the moral opinions of men, all that governs the world and 
that the Church considers to be inimical to it, is a part of the very teaching 
the same Church unwittingly brought in together with the teaching of Christ 
that it tried to conceal. 

The life of the world in our time follows its own course, independently of the 
teaching of the Church. That teaching has remained so far behind that men 
of the world hearken no more to the voices of the teachers; and, indeed, 
there is nothing worth listening to, because the Church only gives 
explanations that the world has already grown tired of- explanations of an 
organization that is rapidly decaying. 

Certain men set out in a boat, while a man at the helm steered. He was a 
skilful pilot, and the boat glided rapidly on; but a time came when a less 
skilful helmsman took his place. Finding the latter incapable of steering well, 
those in the boat first ridiculed him and then drove him away. That would 
not have mattered much if the men had not forgotten, in their anger against 
the useless helmsman, that without one they would not know in what 
direction they were going. So it was with our Christian world. The Church 
does not stand at the helm any more; we row rapidly on, and all the 
progress of knowledge on which our nineteenth century prides itself is only 
the result of our floating without a helmsman. We do not know where we 
are going. We go on leading our present lives absolutely without knowing 
why we do so. And yet it is as unreasonable to live without knowing why we 



do so as it is to set off in a boat without knowing to where we are bound. 

If people did nothing themselves, but by some outward power were placed 
to the current condition, then they might answer the question, 'Why are you 
in such a condition?' by saying that they did not know why. We do not know, 
but we happen to be in this condition. But people make their own conditions 
for themselves, for each other, and especially for their children, and they 
must therefore be able to answer when asked why they assemble into 
armies, to cripple and to kill each other; why they waste the immense 
strength of millions in erecting useless and pernicious cities; why they 
organize their petty courts of law, and send men whom they call criminals 
out of France to Cayenne, out of Russia to Siberia, and out of England to 
Australia, while knowing that it is senseless to act thus. When they are asked 
why they leave the fields and woods they love to work in factories and 
sweatshops that they hate; why they bring up their children to lead the 
same lives though they disapprove of them; they ought to be able to give 
some reason for their conduct. Even if all this were pleasant, people should 
be able to give their reasons; but when it is the hardest possible work, when 
people groan over it, how can they go on acting in this way without trying to 
find adequate reasons. People have to either stop doing all this or to answer 
why they do it. 

People never have lived without trying to solve these questions; people 
cannot live without making the attempt. And people always had the answer. 

The Jew lived as he lived - he made war, he executed people, he built 
temples, he organized his life thus and not otherwise - because it was 
enjoined him by the Law, which, according to his conviction, came from God 
Himself. It is thus likewise with the Hindus and the Chinese, it was thus with 
the Romans and the Muslims, it was thus with the Christians a hundred 
years ago, and it is thus now with the ignorant crowd. The unthoughtful 
Christian now solves these questions in this way: soldiery, war, courts of law, 
and executions exist according to the commandments of God, transmitted 
to us by the Church. The Church teaches that the world, as we know it, is a 
lost world. All the evil that fills it exists only by the will of God as a 
punishment for the sins of men, and therefore we must submit to it. We can 
only save our souls by faith, by the sacraments, by prayer, and by 



submission to the will of God. The Church teaches us that each must submit 
to the sovereign, who is the anointed of God, and to those who are in 
authority over us; that each must defend his own property by violence, 
make war, and execute or be executed according to the will of the 
authorities placed over him by God. 

It does not matter if this explanation good or bad, it formerly explained all 
the various phases of life to the believing Christian, and man did not 
renounce his own reason while living according to the law that he 
acknowledged as divine. But now the time has come when only the most 
ignorant believe in this, and even their number decreases with every day 
and every hour of the day. There is no possibility of stopping this 
progression. All eagerly follow those who are in front, and all will soon reach 
the point where the foremost now stand. But the foremost are standing 
upon the brink of an abyss. The position of the foremost is an awful one. 
They point out the path to those who are to follow them, and are 
themselves completely ignorant both of what they are doing and of the 
things that impel them to act as they do. There is not one man among them 
who could now answer the direct question, "Why do you lead the life that 
you lead?' 'Why do you do what you do?' I have addressed such questions 
to hundreds of men, and have never received a direct reply. Instead of a 
plain answer to the question, I always received an answer to some question 
that I had not asked. 

Whenever I asked a Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox believer why he lived 
as he did - so contrary to the teaching of Christ, which he professed - 
instead of a direct answer, each would begin to talk of the lamentable want 
of faith of the present generation, of the wicked men who propagate 
irreligion, and of what awaited the Church in future. But the answer why the 
man did not do what his creed enjoined was never given to me. Instead of 
answering about himself he would speak of the general state of mankind, 
and of the Church, as if his own life was of no importance whatever, and as 
if he were engrossed by the idea of saving all mankind, and especially the 
institution called 'the Church.' 

A philosopher, whether an idealist, a spiritualist, a pessimist, or a positivist, 
would answer the question of why he did not live according to his 



philosophical teaching by talking of the progress of mankind and of the 
historical law of that progress, thanks to which mankind was rapidly 
advancing toward perfect happiness. But he would never give a direct 
answer to the question, why he himself, in his own life, did not fulfill what 
he considered rational. The philosopher, like the believer, seems to be taken 
up with observing the general laws of all humanity rather than with the 
ordering of his own individual life. 

If you ask an average man, a representative of the great majority of the 
civilized men who are half believers, half unbelievers, and who are all, 
without a single exception, dissatisfied with their own lives and with our 
social adjustments, and who always foresee approaching ruin - such an 
average man, on being asked why he leads a life that he himself finds fault 
with, and why he does nothing to improve it, never gives you a direct 
answer and never speaks of himself, but turns the conversation to some 
general question about justice, trade, the state, or civilization. If he is a 
policeman or an attorney he will say, 'And how are things to go on if, in 
order to better my own life, I take no part in the affairs of the country? How 
will trade progress?' If he is a merchant he will say, 'What progress will 
civilization make, if I do not cooperate in its advancement?' Each speaks as if 
the problem of his life did not lie in attaining the happiness toward which he 
strives, but in serving the state, commerce, or civilization. The average man 
answers exactly as the believer and philosopher do. He answers a personal 
question by a general one; and the reason why the believer, the 
philosopher, and the average man retort by a general question is that not 
one of them has any true notion of life. And each of them really feels 
ashamed of his ignorance. 

It is only in our Christian world that, instead of the teaching of life, the 
explanation of what our life ought to be - which is religion - there is only 
the explanation of why life must be such as it was of old; and the name of 
religion is given to a teaching that nobody needs. Nor is that all; science has 
acknowledged this same fortuitous, defective position of society as the law 
of all mankind. Learned men, such as Tillet, Spenser, and others, argue very 
seriously about 'religion,' understanding by the word the metaphysical 
teaching of the 'origin of all,' without suspecting that, instead of speaking of 
religion as a whole, they speak of only a part of it. But the life itself is left 



without any definition. 

Moreover, as always happens, science has recognized this random, ugly 
state of our society as the law of mankind. Scientists Thiele, Spencer, etc. 
discuss religion with all determination, yet they focus only on the 
metaphysical teachings about the beginning of everything and have no idea 
that they are considering not the entire religion but only a part of it. 

The result of all this is that, in our century, we see wise and learned men 
who are 'naively' convinced that they are devoid of all religion, only because 
they do not acknowledge the correctness of those metaphysical 
explanations that were, in some past time, given as explanations of life. The 
idea never occurs to them that they must live in some way or other, that 
they do live in some way or other, and that it is exactly the principle on 
which their lives are based that is their religion. These men imagine that 
they have very elevated convictions and no faith. But, whatever people may 
say, if they take any thoughtful actions, they have beliefs, because 
thoughtful actions are always defined by beliefs. The actions of these 
individuals are defined only by the belief that they always ought to do what 
they were told. The religion of these people, who do not recognize religion, 
is the religion of obedience to everything that makes a strong majority, that 
is, in short, the religion of obedience to the existing Government. 

We may live according to the teaching of the world; we may lead an animal 
life without acknowledging anything higher and more obligatory than the 
decrees of the existing authorities. But he who lives thus cannot be said to 
live rationally. Before saying that we live rationally we must answer the 
question, 'Which teaching of life do we consider as a rational one?' 

Miserable beings that we are, we have no such teaching; we have even lost 
all consciousness of the necessity for gaining any rational teaching of life. 

Ask people of our time, believers or unbelievers, what teaching they follow. 
They will have to confess that they follow only the laws written by the 
officials of the Second Section, or by the Legislative Assembly, and put in 
practice by the police. This is the only teaching that our European world 
acknowledges. They know that this teaching does not come either from 
heaven or from the prophets, neither was it taught by the sages. They blame 
the regulations of these officials and of the legislative assemblies but submit 



to its executors, who are the police, and obey the most barbarous exactions 
without a murmur. The legislative assemblies have decreed, and officials 
have written, that each young man must be ready to submit to insult, death, 
and murder; and all the fathers and mothers who have grown-up sons obey 
that law, although this law was written yesterday by a sold-out minister and 
this law can be changed tomorrow. 

But all notions of there being a law that is indubitably rational and that each 
feels in his inmost soul to be obligatory are so lost in our world that the 
existence of a law among the Jews, which defined the whole order of life, for 
them, a law that was rendered obligatory by the moral feeling of each, is 
considered as existing exclusively among the Jews. It is regarded as a 
peculiarity of the Jewish nation that they obeyed what they considered in 
their inmost souls to be the indubitable truth, received directly from God, 
and they knew it to be such because it was in unison with their conscience. 
The position of an educated man, a Christian, is considered to be a normal 
and natural one when he obeys what he knows was only written by despised 
men and is enforced by policemen, that is, when he obeys what he feels to 
be unjust and contrary to his conscience. 

It was in vain that I looked in our civilized world for some moral principles of 
life that should be clearly expressed. There are none. There is even no 
consciousness of such principles being necessary. There is even a firm 
conviction that moral principles are unnecessary; and that religion only 
consists in words about a future life, about God, about certain rites that, as 
some say, are necessary for salvation, while others consider them as totally 
unnecessary, and say that life goes on independently of all rules - that all 
that is necessary is to obey passively. The main points of faith are the 
teaching of life and the explanation of what life is and ought to be. Of these 
the first is considered as unimportant and as having nothing to do with faith, 
while the second is only an explanation of a life that was, in some past time, 
together with some conjectures about the historical progress of life, and this 
is considered as the most important and serious point. In all that really 
enters into the life of man - for instance, how he is to live, is he to commit 
murder or not, is he to condemn his fellow-creatures or not, in what way he 
is to bring up his children - people submit without a murmur to the rule of 
others who know no more than they do themselves why they themselves 



live as they do, and why they insist upon others living the same way. 

And men consider such a life as rational, and are not ashamed of it! 

The split between the definition of the faith that is named faith, and the 
faith that is named public, State life, have now reached the last degree, and 
the majority of civilized people stuck to the life with the only faith in 
policeman and governor. 

This state of things would be awful, were it universal. Fortunately, there are 
people in our days, the best men of our time, who, dissatisfied with such a 
creed, have a creed of their own concerning the life that we ought to lead. 

These people are considered as pernicious and dangerous unbelievers; and 
yet they are the only believers. They are believers in the teaching of Christ, 
or at least in a part of it. 

These people often do not know the whole teaching of Christ. They do not 
properly understand it, and indeed they often reject the chief basis of the 
Christian faith, which is non-resistance of evil; but their faith in what life 
ought to be is derived from the teaching of Christ. However these people 
may be persecuted and slandered, they are the only people who do not 
passively submit to all that they are ordered to do, and therefore they are 
the only people who do not vegetate, but lead a rational life, and they are 
the only true believers. 

The link between the world and the Church, which gave meaning to the 
world, grew weaker and weaker, according as the content, the juices of life, 
flowed more and more into the world. 

This is the mysterious process of birth; it is going on in front of our eyes. And 
now the last link that bound us to the Church is breaking, and an 
independent process of life is beginning. 

The teaching of the Church, with its dogmas, councils, and hierarchy, is 
unquestionably bound up with the teaching of Christ. This connection is just 
as obvious as the relationship of a newborn baby with the womb of its 
mother. But just as umbilical cord and placenta after birth become the 
unnecessary pieces of meat, that, out of respect for what was stored in 
them, must be gently buried in the ground, the same way the Church 



became an unnecessary, outdated organ, which, only out of respect to what 
it was before, should be hidden somewhere far away. Once breathing and 
blood circulation is established, the connection, formerly being the source of 
food, becomes an obstacle. And insane are the efforts to keep this link and 
to try to feed the newborn child through the umbilical cord instead of 
feeding the child through it mouth and let it use its lungs. 

But the release of a baby from its mother's womb does not start an 
independent life. The life of a baby depends on the establishment of new 
nourishing bond with its mother. The same should happen with our Christian 
world. The teaching of Christ bore our world and gave birth to it. The 
Church, one of the organs of the teaching of Christ, has accomplished its 
purpose and became redundant, became a hindrance. The world cannot be 
ruled by the Church, but also getting rid of the Church does not yet render 
the life to the world. Its life will only start when it will realize its 
powerlessness and will feel the need for a new nourishment. And this is 
what must occur in our Christian world: it must cry out of its helplessness; 
only the consciousness of its helplessness, consciousness of the impossibility 
of nourishing itself the former way and the impossibility of using any other 
way of nourishment than its mother's milk, will deliver it to the mother's 
breast, already overfilled with milk. 

What happens with our so overconfident, brave, decisive on the outside and 
yet, inside the consciousness, frightened and bewildered European world, is 
the same as what happens with a newborn child: he rushes, shouts, cries, 
gets angry, and can't understand what he needs to do. It feels that the 
previous source of nourishment has dried up, but doesn't know yet where to 
look for a new one. 

A newborn lamb moves its eyes and ears, shakes its tail, jumps, kicks. We 
see its determination and it seems to us that he knows everything, but this 
poor thing knows nothing. All its determination and energy is the fruit of its 
mother's juices, the transmission of which has ceased and cannot be 
resumed. It is in a blissful and, at the same time, desperate situation. It's full 
of freshness and strength; but the calf will be gone if it doesn't get to suck 
its mother's nipples. 

It is thus with our European world. See what a complicated, seemingly 



rational, energetic life there is in our European world. It looks like all these 
people know all they are doing and why they are doing this. Take a look at 
how decisively, youthfully, energetically they act. Art, science, trade, and 
social activity - all are full of life. But all this only lives because its mother 
has recently fed it, by means of umbilical cord. There was Church that 
passed the rational teaching of Christ to the world. Every manifestation of 
life was nourished by it, grew, and have grown up. The Church has done its 
business, and has withered away. All the organs of the world are full of life, 
but the source of their former nourishment is stopped, and they have not 
found a new one. They seek it everywhere, but only not at their mother 
from which they have just separated. They, like the newborn lamb, still use 
the previous food, but have not yet come to understand that the food again 
can be only found at their mother, and can be transmitted to them, only in a 
different way. 

The world now has to comprehend that the former unconscious process of 
nourishment has outlived its time, and that a new, conscious process of 
nourishment is necessary. 

This new process consists in admitting those truths of the Christian teaching 
that had formerly flowed into the world through the medium of the Church, 
and that are the sources of life. People must again lift up the light that was 
hidden from them, and they must place it high before themselves and 
others and consciously live in that light. 

The teaching of Christ as a religion that defines life, and gives an explanation 
of human life, stands now as it did 1800 years ago before the world. But 
before, the world had the interpretations of the Church, which, while hiding 
the teaching from their eyes, seemed to suffice for its life; but now the time 
has come when the Church has served its time and the world has no one to 
explain to it the problem of its new life, and feeling its helplessness, must 
accept the teaching of Christ. 

Christ teaches us, first of all, to believe in the light while the light is in us. 
Christ teaches men to place this light of reason above all else, to live up to it, 
and not to do what they themselves acknowledge to be irrational. If you 
consider it irrational to kill Turks or Germans, do not do so; if you consider it 
irrational to force poor creatures to work hard, in order that you may wear 



fine hats or have fine drawing rooms, do not do so; if you find it an irrational 
proceeding to shut up those who have been depraved by idleness in a 
prison, in this way to condemn them to the worst possible company and to 
complete idleness, then do not do so; if you think it irrational to live in an 
infected town when you can live in the fresh fields, do not do so; if you 
consider it irrational to make your children study the dead languages more 
than they do anything else, then do not do so. Only don't do what our 
European world does now: to live the life they don't consider reasonable, to 
commit acts they don't consider reasonable, not to believe their own mind, 
to live in discord with it. 

The teaching of Christ is 'light.' The light shines. It is impossible not to accept 
the light when it shines. It is impossible to argue with it; it is impossible to 
disagree with it. It is impossible to refuse the teaching of Christ because it 
encompasses all the errors in which people live, and, like the ether, which 
those who study the philosophy of nature speak of, it penetrates all. The 
teaching of Christ is essential for each, whatever position he may be in. 
Christ's teaching must be accepted by people, not because it is impossible to 
deny the metaphysical explanation of life that it gives (we may deny all we 
choose), but because it alone gives us rules of life, without which mankind 
cannot live, if, at least, they wish to live as rational beings. 

The power of Christ's teaching does not lie in the explanations it gives of the 
sense of life, but in the teaching of life that flows out of it. The metaphysical 
teaching of Christ is not new. It is a teaching that is written in the hearts of 
men and that all the truly wise men of the world preached. But the power of 
Christ's teaching lies in the practical application of this metaphysical 
teaching to life. 

The metaphysical foundation of the teaching of the ancient Jews and of that 
of Christ is the same: 'love to God and love to our neighbor.' But the 
application of this teaching to life, according to Moses and according to the 
law of Christ, is very different. According to the Law of Moses it was 
necessary to fulfill 613 commandments, including some most senseless and 
cruel ones, all based upon the authority of the scriptures. According to the 
law of Christ the teaching that flows out of the same metaphysical basis is 
expressed in five rational commandments, which carry their own meaning 



and their own justification along with them, and which embrace the life of 
all mankind. 

The teaching of Christ would not be rejected either by Jews, Buddhists, 
Muslims, or others, even if they doubted the truth of their own creed; still 
less can it be rejected by our Christian world, which has no other moral law. 

The teaching of Christ does not disagree with men in respect to their view of 
life, but, including it, gives them what is wanting in it, what is indispensable. 
It points out to them a path that is not a new one, but one familiar to them 
from their childhood. 

You are a believer, whatever creed you may profess. You believe in the 
creation of the world, in the Trinity, in the fall and the redemption of man, in 
the sacraments, in the efficacy of prayer, or in the Church. Christ's teaching 
does not tell you that your creed is wrong; it only gives it what is wanting. 
While you keep to your present creed you feel that the life of the world and 
your own life are full of evil, and you see no way of escape from this evil. 

The teaching of Christ (obligatory to you, being the teaching of your God), 
gives you simple rules that will deliver you and others from that evil. Believe 
in resurrection from the dead, believe in paradise, in hell, in the pope, in the 
Church, pray as your creed enjoins you to do, keep the fasts, sing psalms, 
and all this does not prevent you from fulfilling what Christ tells you to do in 
order to attain true happiness, namely, avoid anger, do not commit 
adultery, do not swear, do not defend yourself by violence, never make war. 

It may, perhaps, happen that you will not always fulfill all this. You will yield 
to temptation and transgress one of these laws, just as you violate the rules 
of the civil law or the laws of good breeding. You will, perhaps, in a moment 
of impulse, swerve from the rules laid down by Christ. But in your calmer 
moments do not act as you do now, do not organize your life in a way that 
renders it difficult to avoid anger and adultery, to abstain from swearing and 
using violence or making war; but organize it in a way that should make all 
these things difficult to do. You must admit the duty of acting thus, for these 
are the commandments of God. 

You are, perhaps, an unbeliever or a philosopher. You say that all goes on in 
the world according to a law that you have discovered. The teaching of 



Christ fully acknowledges the law that you have discovered. But, 
independent of this law, which will bring good to mankind after thousands 
of years, is your own individual life. Now you have no rules at all for your 
own individual life, except those written by people whom you despise, and 
enforced by the police. The teaching of Christ gives you rules that decidedly 
agree with your law, for your law of altruism is nothing but a bad periphrasis 
for the teaching of Christ. 

Or you are neither a believer nor an unbeliever, you have no time to seek 
the purpose of life, and you have no definite creed; it is enough for you that 
you act as all others do. Then Christ's teaching says in effect to you, you are 
unable to verify the truth of the teaching that is preached to you - you find 
it easier to follow the example of those around you; but, however humble 
you may be in mind, you have a judge in your heart who sometimes makes 
you feel that you have acted rightly, and at other times shows you that you 
are wrong. However modest your lot may be, you cannot help sometimes 
asking yourself, 'Ought I to act as all around me do, or according to my own 
feeling?' And no sooner does the question arise in your mind than the 
commandments of Christ are found to answer both your reason and your 
conscience. These commandments will give you the answer, because they 
address your entire life; and the answer they will give will be in accordance 
with your reason and your consciousness. If you are more a believer than an 
unbeliever, you will act according to the will of God by following the 
precepts of Christ; if you are more a free-thinker than a believer, by 
following Christ's precepts you follow the most rational laws that ever 
existed in the world, as you will see yourself, because the precepts of Christ 
bear their own justification in themselves. 

Christ says (John 12:31), 'Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the 
prince of this world be cast out.' 

He says likewise (John 16:33), 'These things I have spoken to you that in me 
you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation; but be of 
good cheer, I have overcome the world.' 

And it is in this way that the world, or the evil that is in the world, is 


overcome. 



If a world of evil still exists, it exists only as something that is dead. It lives 
only by inertia; there is no force of life in it. It does not exist for him who 
believes in the commandments of Christ. It is conquered by the rational 
consciousness of the human son. The dispatched train is still running on in 
the same straight direction, but all the rational work is being done on it for 
already a long time to reverse its direction. 

'For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. The victory that 
overcomes the world is your faith' (1 John 5:4). 

The faith that overcomes the world is faith in the teaching of Christ. 



Chapter 12 

I believe in the teaching of Christ, and the articles of my belief are as follows. 

I believe that true happiness will only be possible when all people begin to 
follow Christ's teaching. 

I believe that the fulfillment of this teaching is easy, possible, and conducive 
to happiness. 

I believe that, even if it is left unfulfilled by all around me, if I have to stand 
alone among men, I cannot do otherwise than to follow it in order to save 
my own life from inevitable destruction, just as the choice would be obvious 
for someone who got caught in a burning house and found the door of 
escape. 

I believe that, while I followed the teaching of the world, my life was a life of 
suffering, and that it is only by living according to the teaching of Christ that 
I can attain the happiness that the Father of life destined me to enjoy in this 
world. 

I believe that this teaching gives blessing to the entire humanity, saves me 
from imminent perdition, and gives me the biggest blessing here. That is 
why I cannot not to follow it. 

The law is given through Moses; but happiness and truth are given through 
Jesus Christ' (John 1:17). The teaching of Christ is happiness and truth. When 
I did not know the truth I did not know true happiness. Thinking that evil 
was happiness, I fell into evil, and doubted if my long for happiness was 
legitimate. Now, I have understood and believed that the happiness for 
which I long is the will of the Father, and is the legitimate essence of my life. 
Christ says to me, 'Live for your happiness and for that of others, but do not 
believe in the snares - temptations (aKavSaAoc;) - that attract you by a 
semblance of happiness, while they, in reality, deprive you of it and entice 
you into evil. Your happiness is in your unity with all men. Do not deprive 
yourself of the happiness given to you.' 

Christ taught me to live for the good, just not to believe those traps - the 
temptations that lure you by the likeness of the good, deprive you from 
good, and entangle you in evil. Your blessing is your unity with all people, 


and evil is a violation the unity of the human son. Do not deprive yourself 
from the blessing that is given to you. 

Christ has revealed to me that love toward all people is not only a duty that 
we must all strive after, as I thought before, but that in it lies true happiness 
- a happiness as natural to men as it is to children, as he says; and it is 
innate in all people until it is affected by deceit, error, and temptation. 

Christ has not only revealed this to me, but has enumerated in his 
commandments all the temptations that draw me away from the state of 
unity, love, and happiness natural to man, and entice me into the snares of 
wickedness. The commandments of Christ show me how to escape the 
temptations that led me away from true happiness. 

Happiness was given to me, and I have destroyed it. Christ's commandments 
reveal the snares that have destroyed my happiness, and therefore I cannot 
help endeavoring to avoid them. My creed is in this, and in this alone. 

Christ has shown me that the first snare is enmity - anger. I believe this, and 
can, therefore, no longer harbor a feeling of enmity against any man. I can 
no longer pride myself upon my anger as I used to do, nor justify it to myself 
by thinking myself great and clever, and others insignificant and foolish. As 
soon as I remember that I am giving way to anger I can no longer refuse to 
acknowledge myself in the wrong, nor can I help seeking to be reconciled to 
those who are at enmity with me. 

Nor is that all. As I know now that my anger is unnatural, harmful, and 
painful to me condition, I likewise recognize the temptation that led me into 
it. The temptation was my standing aloof from others, acknowledging only a 
few as my equals, and all the rest of the world as insignificant (racas) or 
foolish and ignorant (you fool!). I see now that these habits of holding 
myself aloof from others and considering them as fools (racas) were the 
chief causes of my enmity toward men. On recalling my past life to mind, I 

now see that I never once harbored a feeling of enmity toward those whom 

8 

I considered my superiors , and that I never intentionally wounded their 
feelings; that, on the contrary, the most trifling circumstances sufficed to 
excite my anger against a man whom I considered my inferior, and the more 
I considered myself above him the easier I found it to outrage him. But I 


know now that he who humbles himself before others and who works for 
others is the only one who stands above the rest. I understand now that 
what is highly esteemed by people is abomination in the sight of God, why 
woe is foretold to the rich and famous, and why beggars and those who are 
humble are the blessed. Now I understand this and believe in this, and my 
understanding of this has changed my view of all that is good and noble or 
bad and base in life. All that had formerly seemed good and noble in my 
eyes - such things as honor, glory, education, riches, all the refinements of 
life, elegant furniture, good food, fine clothes, etc. - have grown worthless 
to me. All that had seemed bad and base - such things as obscurity, poverty, 
rough manners, simplicity of furniture, of food, of clothes, etc. - have grown 
good and noble in my eyes. If, therefore, I now inadvertently give myself up 
to anger and wound another's feelings, I dare not, after a moment's serious 
reflection, yield to the temptation that deprives me of true happiness, 
union, and love, any more than a man can set a snare for himself in which he 
was once caught. I can no longer try to rise above other men and to 
separate myself from them, nor can I allow either rank or title for others or 
myself, except the title of 'man'. I can no longer seek fame or glory, nor can I 
help trying to get rid of my riches, which separate me from my fellow- 
creatures. I cannot help seeking in my way of life, in its surroundings, in my 
food, my clothes, and my manners to everything that connects me with the 
majority of people, and to avoid all that separates me from them. 

Christ has shown me that the second temptation that destroys my happiness 
is 'lasciviousness,' 'lust' for a woman other than I bound myself to. Knowing 
this, I believe this is true, and therefore I cannot any longer acknowledge 
sexual lust to be natural and fine quality of a person, cannot justify it by my 
affection for beauty, by my ardor, or by shortcomings of my wife. As soon as 
I feel that I am giving way to my passions, I know myself to be in an 
unhealthy, unnatural state of mind, and try by all possible means to escape 
this evil. 

And, knowing that sexual lust is an evil for me, I know, too, the temptation 
that used to lead me into it, and I can no longer yield to it. I know now that 
the chief cause of this temptation lies not in powerlessness of people to 
resist sexual lust but in the separation of men and women from those to 
whom they were once united. I know now that the forsaking of those to 



whom men and women have been once united is the 'divorce' that Christ 
forbids, for it brings depravity into the world. On recalling my past life, I see 
clearly that it was not only the crazy upbringing I had received that had 
encouraged my lasciviousness, by both physically and morally exciting my 
passions and justifying them by all the refinements of wit, but the chief 
temptation ensnaring me was my having forsaken the woman with whom I 
had first been united, and the availability of separated women around me. I 
see now that the major force of the temptation was not in my lust but in the 
unsatisfied lust of both mine and of those separated women around me. I 
understood the full meaning of Christ's words, and saw that God had 
created man and woman in order that they might live in couples, and that 
what God had joined together should never be put asunder. I now see 
clearly that monogamy is the natural law of mankind and must never be 
broken. I understand the words that 'he who divorces his wife,' that is, the 
woman to whom he was first united, 'forces her to commit adultery,' and 
brings new evil into the world. My belief in this has changed my former 
estimate of what is good and noble or bad and base in life. The things that I 
had formerly prized - a refined, elegant life and the passionate and poetic 
love extolled by all poets and artists - has become wicked and hideous in my 
eyes. On the contrary, a hard working, poor, simple life, which masters 
human passions, alone seems desirable. It is not our human institution of 
marriage that makes really lawful the union of man and woman. I consider 
as sacred and obligatory that union alone between a man and a woman 
which, once and forever, cannot be broken without violating the will of God. 

I can no longer give way to idleness and an easy life, which always tends to 
excite inordinate desires, nor can I find pleasure in novel reading, poetry, 
music, or balls, which I had hitherto regarded, not only as innocent, but even 
as refined occupations. I cannot forsake my wife, for I now know that my 
doing so is a snare for others, for her, and for myself; I cannot cooperate in 
the idle and and easy lives of other people; I cannot neither participate nor 
organize those entertainments that excite lusts - novel readings, theatres, 
operas, malls - and serve as snares for me and for others; I cannot support 
sexual Nasons of mature people without obligations; neither can I cooperate 
in the separation of any husband and wife; I cannot make distinctions 
between Nasons officially called marriages and the common-in-law ones. 



Every union between a man and woman I consider to be sacred and binding 
to the end of their days. 

Christ has revealed to me that the third temptation that destroys my 
happiness is the 'taking of an oath/ I believe it, and therefore I can't 
anymore, as I did before, myself swear to anyone in anything, and I can't 
anymore, as I did before, justify my oath taking by saying that it cannot harm 
anyone, that everybody is doing that, and that this is necessary for the State, 
and that it will be worse for me or others if I refuse to submit to this 
requirement. I know now that this is an evil for me and for people, and I 
can't do it. 

I know, besides, wherein the temptation lay, which enticed me into this evil, 
and I dare not yield to it any more. I know that the temptation lies in our 
sanctioning deception. Men swear to submit to the commands of other 
men, whereas man must submit to God alone. The most awful evils in the 
world, by the consequences they entail, such as war, imprisonment, 
executions, and torture, only exist through this snare, by which all 
responsibility is taken off those who do evil. Upon pondering on lots of evil 
that made me condemn and not love people, -1 see now that all of that was 
caused by oath taking - by recognizing the need to subjugate myself to the 
will of other people. I now understand the meaning of the words, 'All that is 
more than a simple affirmation or negation, yes or no, is evil/ Every promise 
is evil. Having understood this, I now see that the taking of an oath is against 
my own good, as well as the good of others; and the knowledge of that has 
altered my estimate of what is good and noble or bad and low. All that had 
seemed most good and noble to me before - obligatory allegiance to the 
government, the extortion of oaths from men, all the deeds conscience 
condemns that are mostly the result of a man's having taken an oath - look 
bad and low to me now. Therefore, I can no longer set aside the 
commandment of Christ, which says, 'Swear not at all/ I cannot now swear 
an oath, nor can I insist upon others dong so, nor can I support people to 
consider taking an oath as necessary or even harmless. 

Christ has revealed to me that the fourth temptation, depriving me of my 
happiness, is 'resisting evil by violence.' I know that my doing so leads others 
and me into evil, and cannot therefore justify myself by saying that it is 



necessary for the protection of others, of my property, or of myself. No 
sooner do I remember this than I cannot help abstaining from violence of 
every kind. 

And I know, likewise, what the temptation is. It is the erroneous idea that 
my welfare can be secured by defending my property and myself against 
others. I now know that the greater part of the evil men suffer from arises 
from this. Instead of working for others, each tries to work as little as 
possible, and forcibly makes others work for him. And on recalling to mind 
all the evil done by others and myself, I see that it proceeded, for the most 
part, from our considering it possible to secure and better our conditions by 
violence. I now understand the meaning of the words, 'man is born, not to 
be ministered to, but to minister to others.' I now understand the saying, 
'the laborer is worthy of his hire.' I now believe that my happiness, and that 
of all men, will only be attained when each labors for others and not for 
himself, when none refuses to labor for him who is in need of help. My 
belief in this has altered my estimate of good and evil, of honourable and 
dishonourable. All that I had formerly prized - such things as riches, 
property, honor, and self-dignity - have grown worthless in my eyes; and all 
I had formerly despised - such things as hard work, poverty, humility, the 
renunciation of property, and the renunciation of one's rights - have grown 
good and noble in my eyes. If I now feel tempted to defend others or myself, 
the property of others or my own, by violence, I can no longer give way to 
temptation, which ruins myself and others. I dare not amass riches for 
myself. I dare not use violence of any kind against my fellow-creatures, 
except, perhaps, against a child in order to save it from present harm; nor 
can I now take part in any act of authority, the purpose of which is to 
protect men's property by violence. I can neither be a judge, nor take part in 
judging and condemning, nor a manager, nor a participant in any 
management; neither can I support the participation of others in courts and 
management. 

Christ has revealed to me that the fifth temptation, depriving me of well¬ 
being, is 'the distinction we make between our own and foreign nations.' I 
believe in this, and, therefore, if a feeling of enmity arises in my heart 
against a foreigner, I cannot help acknowledging, after a few moments' 
serious reflection, that the feeling is a wicked one; lean no longer justify this 



feeling to myself by acknowledging the superiority of my own nation over 
others, or by the cruelty or barbarity of any other nation. I cannot help 
trying to be kinder and more friendly toward a foreigner than toward my 
own countrymen, rather than otherwise. 

And knowing that the distinction I formerly made between my own and 
other nations is evil, I see the temptation that led me into this evil, and can 
no longer consciously let myself be drawn into it. It is the erroneous idea 
that my welfare is linked only with that of my native land, and not with that 
of all mankind. But I now know that my unity with other people cannot be 
destroyed by borders and statements of governments that I belong to such 
and such nation or country. I now know that people are equal everywhere 
and all are brothers. On recalling to mind all the evil that I did myself and 
that I suffered from others in consequence of the enmity that so often exists 
between different nations, it is clear to me that the cause was the gross 
imposition called 'patriotism' and the 'love to native land'. I can remember 
perfectly well that the feeling of enmity toward other nations, the 
assumption that a difference existed between them and myself, was not a 
feeling natural to me, but was grafted upon me by the senseless education 
given to me. But I now understand the meaning of the words, 'Love your 
enemies, do good to them.' You are all the children of one Father, therefore 
be like the Father; that is, make no distinction between people, treat all 
equally. I now see clearly that I can only attain happiness by recognizing my 
unity with all people of the world without exception. I believe in this. And 
this belief has completely altered my former estimate of what is good and 
noble or bad and low. All that I formerly prized as something worthy of 
respect - love for my native land, my people, my country, my service in 
military, which destroys other nations' wellbeing, military exploits of people 
- now seems not only pitiful but also hideous to me. The renunciation of the 
fatherland and cosmopolitanism, which I had formerly despised, now seems 
a noble thing to me. If, at a moment of oblivion, I tend to support Russian 
people more than foreign, wish success to the Russia or Russian people, at 
the moment of reasoning I can no longer serve that temptation, which is 
ruining me and all people. Can't recognize any States or nations. I can no 
longer take any part in quarrels between various nations, either in speech or 
by writing, nor especially by serving any government; neither can I take part 



in any of the various administrations based on the difference of countries, 
either in custom-houses, in collecting taxes, in preparing ammunition or fire¬ 
arms, or in any activity relating to militarizing, or in military service; still less 
can I take part in war against other nations, just as I cannot support people 
doing that. 

Having understood what is conducive to happiness, I can no longer do what 
deprives me of it. 

I believe that I must live thus. I believe that it is only by living thus that I can 
find a rational purpose in life, which cannot be destroyed by death. 

I believe that my rational life is the light given to me in order that it should 
shine before people, not in my words, but in my good deeds, so that people 
may glorify their Father (Matt. 5:6). I believe that my life and my knowledge 
of the truth are the talent given to me to work for it; that this talent is a fire, 
which is only a fire when it is burning. I believe that I am a Ninevite in 
relation to other Jonahs, from whom I have learned the truth, but that I am 
also Jonah in relation to other Ninevites, to whom it is my duty to reveal the 
truth. I believe that the only true purpose of my life is 'to live up to the light 
that is in me/ not to conceal it, but to set it high before people, that all 
should see it; and this belief gives me new strength to fulfill the teaching of 
Christ, and destroys all the obstacles that had formerly stood in my way. 

All that had undermined my belief in the truth of Christ's teaching and had 
made it seem impracticable; all that had set me against it, such as having to 
endure privation, suffering, and death at the hands of those who do not 
know the teaching of Christ, is just what now confirms its truth in my eyes 
and attracts me toward it. 

Christ has said, 'When you lift up the human son, all will be drawn up to me,' 
and I felt myself irresistibly drawn to him. He said, likewise, 'The truth will 
set you free,' and I felt completely free. 

I used to think that enemies would come to make war or evil people would 
attack me, and if I did not defend myself they would despoil us; would 
abuse, torture and kill me and mine; and this seemed horrible to me. But all 
that troubled me before has now turned to joy, and confirmed the truth. I 
know that my enemies, the so-called evil people and robbers of the world - 



are people, and are the 'human sons', like I am; they, like me, love goodness 
and hate evil; that they live, as I do, on the eve of death, and, like me, look 
for salvation and can only find it in the teaching of Christ. If they do any evil 
to me, it will be evil to them; therefore they have to do me good. If the truth 
is unknown to them, they can do evil, considering it good, but my knowing 
the truth makes it my duty to reveal it to those who do not know it. I cannot 
do so otherwise than by refusing to take any part in evil, and by professing 
the truth by my deeds. 

You say if enemies, such as Germans, Turks, or savages, come to attack you, 
and if you do not make war, they will kill you all. This is an error. If there 
were a society of Christians who did no evil to anybody, and who gave the 
surplus of their labor to others, no enemies, either Germans, Turks, or 
savages, would torture or kill them. They would take what these Christians 
(for whom there would exist no difference between Germans, Turks, or 
savages) would give up to them. If Christians live in a non-Christian society 
that defends itself by war, and if a Christian is called upon to take part in 
war, that is the moment for him to testify the truth to those who do not 
know it. A Christian knows the truth only in order to testify of it before those 
who do not know it. The only way to testify of it for him is by his deeds. And 
his deeds are the renunciation of war and doing good to people without 
making a distinction between so-called enemies and his own. 

"But if the family of a Christian is assaulted not by foreign enemies, but by 
their own evil people, if he does not defend himself, he and his family will be 
robbed, tortured, and killed." This is an error, again. If all the members of a 
family were Christians, and gave up their lives to the service of others, not 
one man would deprive them of food or kill those who can serve him. 
Mikluha Mackli settled among a most brutal tribe of savages; and not only 
they did not kill him, but they came to love him, submitted to him, - only 
because he was not afraid of them, did not demand anything from them, 
and did good to them. 

If a Christian has to live amidst relations and friends who are not Christians 
in the full sense of the word, who defend themselves and their property by 
violence, and who call upon him to take part in their violence, then is the 
time for him to fulfill the duty for which life was given to him. The 



knowledge of the truth is only given to a Christian in order that he should 
make it known to others, and especially to those he is more closely 
connected with, and to whom he is bound by ties of relationship or 
friendship; and the Christian can testify to the truth in no other way than by 
avoiding the errors into which others have fallen, and refusing to take part 
either in the violence of the aggressors or of those who resist them, by 
giving all up to others, and by showing that his only desire is to fulfill the will 
of God and that he fears nothing as much as acting against it. 

"But the country cannot allow a member to evade fulfilling the duties 
incumbent on every citizen." The government requires each man to take his 
oath of allegiance, to take part in judging and condemning; each man is 
obliged to enter the military service, and if he refuses he will be exposed to 
punishment, exile, imprisonment, and even execution. And here again this 
demand of the government will be for the Christian a call to fulfill his duty of 
life. The Christian knows that all the requirements by government are the 
demands of people who do not know the truth. And therefore the Christian, 
who does know the truth, must testify it to those who do not. The violence, 
imprisonment, perhaps even death, to which the Christian will then be 
exposed in consequence of his refusal, will enable him to testify to the truth, 
not in words, but in deeds. Every act of violence, pillage, execution, and war 
is the result, not of the irrational force of nature, but of people who are 
ignorant and deprived of the knowledge of the truth. And therefore, the 
greater the evil these people do to the Christian, the further they are from 
the truth, the more desperate they are, and the more necessary the 
knowledge of the truth is for them. And a Christian can only transmit the 
knowledge of the truth to others by keeping away from the error they are in, 
and by returning good for evil. The whole duty of a Christian, the whole 
purpose of his life, which cannot be destroyed by death, lies in this. 

People, who are linked together by deception, form, we might say, a 
compact mass. In the compactness of this mass lies all the evil of the world. 
All the rational activity of humanity is directed toward breaking such link of 
deception. 

All revolutions are efforts to break this compact mass by violence. People 
think that if they break this body apart, it will stop being the body, and they 



keep hammering it; but in their efforts to break it apart they only forge it. 

Yet, no matter how much they keep forging it, the connection of its 
component parts will not break until an inward power is transmitted to 
them that can force them asunder. 

The power that chains them is 'falsehood/ 'deception.' The power that frees 
each link of the human chain is 'truth.' The truth is transmitted to people 
only by the deeds of the truth. 

Only the deeds of the truth, which bring the light to each man's heart, can 
destroy the chain of deception and remove one man after another out of 
the compact mass fettered by deception. 

And this has gone on for eighteen hundred years. 

The work began when the commandments of Christ were first set before the 
world, and it will not end until all is fulfilled as Christ says (Matt. 5:18). 

The Church, whose members tried to unite people by persuading them that 
it was necessary for salvation to blindly believe that the truth was in her, is 
no more. But the Church, whose followers are not united by promises of 
reward, but by good deeds, lives, and will live forever. That Church does not 
consist of people who cry 'Lord, Lord,' (Matt. 7:21-22) and live in sin, but of 
people who hear His words and follow His commandments. 

Those who belong to that Church know that their lives will be blessed if they 
do not break the unity of the 'Human Son,' and that their happiness is 
undermined only by their not following the commandments of Christ. And 
therefore they follow them, and teach others to do the same. 

It does not matter if these people are few in number or many. They are that 
Church which cannot be overcome by anything, and which all people will 
join, sooner or later. 

'Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the 
kingdom.' (Luke, 12:32) 


THE END 



Translated from Russian by Constantine Popoff 
Transcribed and edited www.nonresistance.org 2005 
Transcribed and edited www.earthlyfireflies.org 2018 




Notes 


K-1] 


A town in the south of Russia where a dreadful railway catastrophe took place 
in 1883. 


[<- 2 ] 


These words have been incorrectly translated. The word pAucia. means age, 
time of life; therefore the expression signifies: 'you cannot add one hour to 
your life.' 


[<-3] 


6o^a has been incorrectly translated by the word 'honor'; 6o^a comes from 
6 ox£w, and signifies opinion, teaching. 


[<-4] 


Faith cannot proceed from trust in promises he might make. 


[<-5] 


Xpioic; signifies judgment and not condemnation, as it is sometimes translated. 


Luke 4:1-2. Christ is led into the wilderness by delusion, in order to be tempted 
there. Matt.4:3,5. Delusion says to Christ that he is not the Son of God if he 
cannot change stones into bread. Christ answers, 'I can live without bread; I live 
by what is breathed into me by God.' Then delusion says, 'If you are alive by 
what is breathed into you by God, cast yourself down from this height; you will 
kill your flesh, but the spirit breathed into you by God will not perish.' Christ 
answers, 'My life in the flesh is by the will of God. If I kill my flesh I act against 
the will of God - I tempt God.’ Matt. 4:8-11. Then delusion says, 'If that is so, 
serve the flesh, as all men do, and the flesh shall reward you.' Christ answers, 
'My life is in the spirit; but I cannot destroy the flesh, because the spirit is put 
into my flesh by the will of God. Therefore, while living in the flesh I serve God 
my Father.' And Christ returns from the wilderness into the world. 


[<~7] 

The way we often hear parents try to justify such a state of things is really 
surprising. 'I want nothing for myself/ says a father; 'my life is a hard one; but I 
love my children, all I do is for them,' i.e., ' know, by experience, that to live as I 
do is to suffer, and I therefore bring up my children to be as unhappy as I am. I 
love them, and therefore I make them live in a town full of physical and moral 
infection, give them into the hands of mercenary strangers, and both physically 
and morally spoil my children.' Thus do parents try to justify their own 
irrational lives. 


[<~8] 

Those whom I considered better and nobler than me.